Medical Humanities

General Information

An education with a humanities perspective on health and medicine shapes individuals to think critically, compassionately and knowledgeably about the human condition, appreciate and respect diverse communities, and develop reflective and resilient habits of the mind. A major in Medical Humanities prepares graduates for health care occupations through its focus on the humanistic aspects of medicine that promote patient centered care and resilient professionals. Students planning careers in medicine, public health, mental health, counseling, nursing, health education, bioethics, health care administration, health communications and public relations, patient advocacy, human resources, as wellness specialists or in chaplaincy could benefit from this program.

The Major in Medical Humanities is intentionally flexible and interdisciplinary, reflecting both the needs of students and the nature of the field. The Medical Humanities major helps students increase their understanding of the nature of illness, health, wellness, healing and medicine by exploring these topics in three blocks of classes that share a commonality of focus.

To ensure cohesion, all majors take the introductory course, a Medical Humanities Commons course, which is an interdisciplinary examination of a single relevant topic (e.g. “Suffering” or “Compliance”) and a Capstone course in Medical Humanities that includes a project integrating their chosen coursework with community engagement.

Block 1: Inclusivity & Diversity: Courses in this block allow students to explore how race, ethnicity, gender, sex, age and income affect the experience of health, illness and medicine. Demographically, the population of the United States is aging and diversifying and this affects who seeks health care and how they interact with the system. Poverty has an enormous impact on the health and well-being of individuals, communities and populations. Students pursuing careers in health care will therefore benefit from a foundational understanding of these concepts and perspectives.

Block 2: Ethics, Religion & Culture: Courses in this block provide students with a foundation in the values, beliefs and concepts that define how health, illness, disease and medicine are experienced at a social and cultural level by individuals and societies. It prepares students to confront ethical questions of meaning and value that arise in the context of medical research and practice. Spirituality and religion for many patients, practitioners and communities are the heart of health care. Exploring cross-cultural perspectives on medical beliefs, practices and systems encourages students to reflect on the diverse ways humans approach, experience and solve problems of health and health care delivery.

Block 3: Narrative Medicine, Communication & Fine Arts: Courses in this block allow students the opportunity to explore different ways of observing, communicating and understanding health, illness and healing. Narrative medicine encourages students to write, reflect and find meaning in their own and others experiences with health and medicine. Literature introduces students to life situations associated with illness and disability in an intimate and intuitive way. Communication skills are essential for interprofessional teams, and working with clients and patients. Music, visual art and drama courses encourage students to express and experience the human condition in unique ways, as well as improving listening, observation and communication skills.

Other Information

All coursework taken for the medical humanities major must be completed with a grade of “C-“ or better.


A maximum of three credit hours can be transferred from another university to count towards the medical humanities major, unless the Director agrees to additional credit transfer.

Writing in the Discipline

All students are required to take a writing in the discipline course within their major. For the medical humanities major this course is ENGL 2400, WRWS 3500, or another approved course.

Contact Information

Steve Langan, Director of Medical Humanities



This is an interdisciplinary survey course in Medical Humanities. It focuses on the contributions and perspectives of arts and humanities in providing a broad and culturally diverse understanding of health, illness, healing, and medicine.

Distribution: Humanities and Fine Arts General Education course


The course explores multiple facets of medical decision-making, including the perspective of the patient, the family, and the healthcare provider. Topics include basic anatomy and medical terminology, which will be used to understand decision-making in the context of the provider. Students use literature and other records to generate and critically evaluate clinical decisions. The course does not satisfy requirements for degree programs in the Department of Biology minor, BA, BS in Biology; BS in Biotechnology. (Cross-listed with BIOL 2060).

Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): BIOL 1060 or concurrent.


A multidisciplinary study of a health-related topic from the perspective of medical humanities. Each semester the course will focus on a different topic or problem for exploration and inquiry. The course topic or problem is examined using disciplinary perspectives, interdisciplinary intersections, and translational opportunities.

Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): MEDH 1000 or Permission of the instructor.


This course introduces students to a specialized subject matter in the disciplines of medical humanities not covered in existing courses. This course may be repeated for different topics up to a maximum of six credit hours.

Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): Permission of the instructor


This course is guided reading or independent research in special topics in Medical Humanities under the supervision of a member of the Medical Humanities faculty. This course is designed primarily for the student interested in topics not currently available in the program offerings and who has demonstrated ability to work independently. May be repeated once for credit.

Prerequisite(s)/Corequisite(s): Permission of the instructor. Not open to non-degree graduate students.