Medical Humanities is a field of study that asks what it means to be human in the context of health and healthcare. It is a holistic response, uniting the arts, humanities, and social sciences to address needs in medical education, professional development, and patient care. Since Medical Humanities is an interdisciplinary field, its intersections between the humanities and medicine invite multiple possibilities in sub-specializations and concerns. To help cohere these diverse approaches, one can visualize the Medical Humanities as comprised of the three “Es”:

  • Education: Medical Humanities prepares those training in the health professions with skills in cultural competency, communication, ethical reasoning, critical thinking, and empathy.
  • Experience: Medical Humanities employs ideas and approaches from the arts and humanities to identify the emotional, social, and cultural needs of those in patient and health professions communities.
  • Expression: Medical Humanities facilitates communication via the arts and humanities as a means of healing and initiating further exploration into issues of healthcare.

Today, medical schools are calling for increased student interest in whole-person care and premedical humanities training. According to a seminal study by Hiram College and the University of Colorado, the number of medical humanities baccalaureate programs has increased more than sevenfold in the last twenty years (from 15 to 102), and an increasing number of universities are enrolling graduate students in Medical Humanities MA and MS programs with specializations in healthcare, bioethics and law, social work, and narrative medicine. However, Medical Humanities is a field that impacts everyone, and everyone—from health professionals and academics to artists, educators, lawyers, and more—help to contribute to the field of study and its exploration of the relationship between health and culture.



The Medical Humanities minor housed in the Department of Humanities and Politics is designed to give students an overview of the ways that the medical arts and sciences intersect and interact with various disciplines in the humanities, in such ways as art and medicine, bioethics, the history of medicine, literature and medicine, music and medicine, medicine in the performing arts, medicine and philosophy, and medicine and law. This minor can be combined with any major and minor. A minimum of 9 credits must be exclusive to the minor and cannot be counted toward any other majors/minors/certificate programs. 

The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) 2019-2020 Facts show that baccalaureate preparation in Medical Humanities complements and even enhances medical school preparation and performance. As long as you meet medical school prerequisite course requirements, you can major in ANYTHING, including English, history, and philosophy, and the AAMC 2019-2020 Facts report shows that students aspiring to medical school score even higher when equipped with a humanities degree. Since medical schools are looking for candidates with well-rounded experiences able to demonstrate a range of competencies, it can be to your advantage to complete a humanities major alongside basic and advanced coursework required at competitive medical schools. Here’s how you can combine a humanities major with medical school prep work:

be Still is a journal of the medical humanities produced from the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Nova Southeastern University. Each issue will explore a dedicated theme that embraces the concept of the arts as medicine to heal, soothe and inspire our souls.

“Patient Pathographies” by Breanna Brady

Breanna Brady
Major: Biology
Minor: Medical Humanities Minor
Year: Class of 2022
HONR 2000W Pathography: Patients’ Stories of Illness
Project: “Patient Pathographies Presentation

Be Woman: A Hypertext

HONR 1010B “The Healthy Woman: Mothers to Cyborgs” is a medical humanities class taught by Dr. Aileen Miyuki Farrar that focuses on women and the specific question, “What defines a healthy woman?” As one of the final projects in this class, students are asked to compose creative artifacts that apply course concepts and theories to communicate what it means to be Woman. The following is their collective story:

“The AAMC, in partnership with StoryCorps and the National Endowment for the Arts, is collecting stories (both oral and written) and poetry from health care professionals relating to their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic and racism and persistent inequities in America. By chronicling these, we aim to honor our community, provide outlets for creative and expressive thought, and continue to integrate the humanities and the arts in medicine.”

The Human Touch 2020 is the thirteenth annual anthology of poetry, prose, photography and graphic art from the Anschutz Medical Campus community at the University of Colorado.” The Curve is a special edition of The Human Touch and is particularly relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Submissions for The Curve include audio, prose, film, drawings, dance, poetry, photographs, paintings, video, and music. Previous editions of the anthology can also be accessed with the link above.

“SCOPES is a student-led initiative committed to integrating the arts and humanities into medical education at Duke University School of Medicine. First-year medical students are given the opportunity to supplement their curriculum and consider the experiences of patients through creative forms and media… SCOPES provides students the opportunity to work with their community partners to develop an art piece that captures their reflection on the patient experience.”

  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) - “The official website of the NEH, which helps with research, grants, programs and more in the area of humanities.”
  • AAMC - The Fundamental Role of Arts and Humanities in Medical Education - “The AAMC will award five $25,000 grants (for a period of up to 18 months) to U.S.-based member schools and teaching hospitals working on new, emerging, or existing arts and humanities programs across the continuum of medical education (UME-GME-CME). Applications are due Sept. 15, 2020.”
  • S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the U.S. government's principal agency for protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. The mission of HHS is to enhance the health and well-being of Americans by providing for effective health and human services and by fostering sound, sustained advances in the sciences underlying medicine, public health, and social services.”
  • The NSU Alvin Sherman Library Medical Humanities Library Course Guide for Introduction to Medical Humanities
  • Baranow, Joan, Brian Dolan, and David Watts. The Healing Art of Writing: Volume 1. San Francisco, CA: UC Medical Humanities Consortium, 2011.
  • Carter, Albert H. Clowns and Jokers Can Heal Us: Comedy and Medicine. San Francisco, CA: University of California Medical Humanities Consortium, 2012.
  • Cole, Thomas R, Nathan Carlin, and Ronald A. Carson. Medical Humanities: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
  • Evans, Martyn, and Ilora Finlay. Medical Humanities. London: BMJ, 2001.
  • Gordon, Jill. "Medical Humanities: To Cure Sometimes, to Relieve Often, to Comfort Always. "Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 182, no. 1, 2005, pp. 5-8. ProQuest
  • Graham, Jeremy, et al. "Medical Humanities Coursework is Associated with Greater Measured Empathy in Medical Students. "The American Journal of Medicine, vol. 129, no. 12, 2016, pp. 1334. ProQuest
  • Grant, VJ. “Making Room for Medical Humanities.” Medical Humanities,  28, 2002, pp. 45-48.
  • Shankar, Ravi P. Significance of Medical Humanities in Contemporary Healthcare Practice and Education. Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2016.