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Medical Humanities

Resources to explore and learn about the interdisciplinary topic of health & medical humanities

What is Medical Humanities?

2 women, a young girl and an older gentleman are gathered around a cradle with a sick infant

The Physician's Verdict - Oil painting by Emile Carolus Leclercq 

Health Humanities - a more inclusive term than Medical Humanities - is difficult to define, but can be described as an interdisciplinary, humanistic, and cultural study of illness, health, health care, and the body in order to promote the interpretation of human factors associated with illness and wellness. It also endeavors to advance interprofessional collaboration, communication, and interpretive skill, to foster humility and improve the quality of delivered care.

An interdisciplinary course of study in Medical or Health Humanities might include courses covering narrative medicine, history of medicine, medical anthropology, ethics, cultural studies, science and technology studies, economics, literature, and the creative arts, such as writing, film, and visual art. However, many of these topics can be integrated into classes in the curriculum or into extracurricular activities to provide a humanistic complement to the science of medicine, health, and evidence-based practice. These topics not only teach health professionals how to use creative and humanistic mediums for their own expression and communication needs but also how to critically interpret and evaluate pieces to better understand and empathize with their patients.

A brief but useful blog post from Lit Med Magazine by Jack Coulehan, M.D., M.P.H., Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine and Fellow at the Center for Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Stony Brook University, New York, provides a doctor's perspective.

About this Guide

In this guide, you will find introductory information on different areas within health and medical humanities and links to many resources. This is not an exhaustive guide, but it will provide you the opportunity to explore how medical and allied health professionals utilize the arts & humanities in their practice and personal lives, as well as how the public might communicate their health issues through arts and multimedia.

Please reach out if you have questions, comments, or suggestions for additions. This guide is always in progress!

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