The newly emerging field of "medical humanities" offers opportunities for scholars in the humanities and humanities-oriented social sciences to be in dialogue with physicians and scholars in medicine and healthcare delivery science. The group meets to discuss a series of topics of relevance to both the humanities and to the study and practice of medicine, including such questions as:
- In what ways can we understand the experience of aging using the lenses of both medicine and the humanities? How do these lenses help us in the consideration of individuals' capacities to make decisions in the setting of illness?
- Are there ways of knowing that emerge through study of the humanities and humanistic inquiry that are – or could be – of value to the practicing physician? What do you wish your own doctor had learned?
- How should the humanities influence the design of healthcare delivery? Are there ways in which the practice of medicine might inform those who study and teach in the humanities?
- How should the medical humanities inform approaches in medical education, particularly in the education of the next generation of physicians, currently in their 20s and 30s?
Through a set of readings and dialogue about questions such as these, our group wishes to explore from the perspectives of both humanities and medicine who and what constitutes the medical "subject." Within the humanities, recent theoretical work (much of which is influenced by the work of Michel Foucault) understands the subject as embedded within shifting institutional, biopolitical, and conceptual frameworks. Even within those frameworks, there is a tremendous range in how patients are treated as medical subjects depending on their age and perceived social and clinical evaluation of their physical and mental capacities. Crucially, these approaches have highlighted the ways in which notions like "person" and "individual" underwrite certain rights that are tied to possession of specific capacities. The individual, for instance, is someone capable of making decisions for herself, taking care of herself, knowing her own mind etc. Thus, people who are "different" —the ill, the aged, the child, or people whose sense of self or orientation toward personhood emerges from diverse cultural frameworks—can be understood as not "fully" individual, and hence subject to coercions of a kind impermissible when dealing with a "fully functioning adult." The workgroup wants to bring this set of humanistic concerns into dialogue with the concerns expressed by medical practitioners about the ways patients are treated in both clinical and experimental settings, and about the ways crucial medical decisions are made.
Ultimately our hope is that through exploring such questions and bringing together scholars and teachers from different disciplines we will facilitate ongoing conversation and collaboration, and begin to develop a shared vocabulary that supports innovative scholarship as well as compassionate and efficacious healing practices.
There are five major intended outcomes to our project:
- to create the opportunity for a sustained cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional dialogue
- to advance colleagues' individual scholarship by providing them with an environment for dialogue, feed-back, and inspiration
- to enable new scholarship by putting scholars in dialogue with one another
- to foster the development of new knowledge
- to facilitate a dialogue about pedagogical frames
This group will consist of a series of events offering perspectives and opportunity for conversation among faculty from humanities, social sciences, medicine and healthcare delivery sciences at Dartmouth each term. Events will include:
- Gatherings each addressing a central question or theme, convened twice each term for facilitated discussion of one assigned reading per gathering
- Participating faculty (drawn from among various humanities, social sciences, medical school faculty at Dartmouth) will provide expertise and commentary, and, after the first two meetings in Fall Term, will be asked to co-facilitate future sessions, as interest and time allow.
- Outside visiting professors/lecturers who bring experience in medicine and humanities who will join a lunch or evening gathering, give an open public lecture, and may attend classes or rounds during a 1-2 day visit on campus
The workgroup is only now forming, and participation is open to faculty members of Dartmouth's Arts & Science division, The Geisel Medical School, as well as interested practitioners from DHMC. Seating for events will be limited and decided on a first-come basis via RSVP to the Leslie Center's administrator.
Events scheduled for 2013-2014 include:
- Monday October 7, 12:30 - 2: Byron Good (Harvard) Inaugural meeting . Please RSVP the Administrator to book a spot and receive a reading.
- Monday October 7, 4: Public lecture with Byron Good ( Harvard) free and open to all
- Tuesday November 12, 5:30PM - 7:30 Haldeman: Medical Humanities workgroup in Haldeman 246
- Tuesday, February 18, 12 - 2 Haldeman 246: Roshi Joan Halifax, "Being with Dying: Changing the Culture of Care"
- Friday April 11: Rita Charon ( Columbia Presbyterian Hospital) Lunch at Noon and public event in Haldeman 041 at 4pm.
- Tuesday April 29, 12 - 2 Haldeman 246: Facilitator Melissa Zeiger. Pre-circulated paper on literary portrayals of breast cancer. Lunch and Reading Provided.
- Tuesday May 6, 12:30 - 3:30 Vail 513: MEDICAL HUMANITIES: Reflective Writing Retreat, facilitated by Hedy S. Wald (Ph.D., Clinical Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University) Wald and participants will explore the concept of fostering reflection in health care professions education and practice using didactic and interactive approaches. The goal is to support compassionate care and resiliency through guided reflection.
We are in the process of inviting visitors, and will update the website once they are confirmed.
- Colleen Glenney Boggs, Professor of English, Director Leslie Humanities Center
- Sienna Craig, Associate Professor and Chair of Anthropology
- Kathy Kirkland, Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Quality, Department of Medicine
- Palliative Care fellow; The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth; Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center