What do We Mean by Medical Humanities?
Medical humanities is an exciting interdisciplinary field emerging at the intersection of the biomedical sciences and the humanities. Disciplines from the realm of the humanities (philosophy, history, literature, religion, ethics, social sciences, behavioral health and the arts, among others) are seen as complementary and not incompatible with the basic sciences that have traditionally dominated premedical and prehealth education.
Medical humanities developed as a response to concerns that technological advances and economic upheaval in modern medicine were negatively impacting the relationship between patients and their healthcare professionals. Studies in the medical humanities are meant to enhance medical education and clinical practice by restoring more holistic values into the healing arts and healthcare settings and reminding us that our explicit focus in healthcare should include the experience of patients as human beings, not just as particular body parts or pathological processes.
Why Study Medical Humanities
Medicine has been described as both art and science, but traditional prerequisite coursework in premedical education has long favored the sciences. That is changing. In 2015, the MCAT was substantially revised with the addition of two new sections that reflect a far greater respect for the role that the humanities have in understanding health and human behavior. The new sections emphasize psychological, social sciences, and behavioral sciences, with passages from a variety of humanities and social science disciplines used to evaluate critical thinking and reasoning skills. The Medical Humanities Program’s course offerings are in excellent alignment with the new MCAT’s priorities.
But medical humanities is about much more than the MCAT; it’s about what matters most in medical practice. The medical humanities heighten our awareness and appreciation for the “whole person" in medicine. Students come away with a greater understanding of the art of medicine, the importance of the doctor-patient relationship, the spiritual and emotional dimensions of disease and the human experience of illness. As one of our graduates, now in medical school puts it: “Biology helped me pass the MCAT. My medical humanities courses help me know what it means to be with the sick and suffering every day."
What can I do with a degree in Medical Humanities?
Baylor offers an outstanding pre-medical education, but the Medical Humanities Program isn't limited only to aspiring doctors. Students who are interested in pursuing careers in public health, community health, social work, law, journalism, healthcare administration and healthcare policy, are well served by this course of study.
Our graduates are employed by hospitals and clinics of all kinds, in fields ranging from primary care to any of the medical and surgical specialties. Others are working in ancillary medical services, serving as health educators, working in public health departments, in social services, chaplaincy and healthcare administration.
It is important to remember that a bachelor’s degree in medical humanities is not an end in itself. This degree is designed to give graduates a foundation upon which to build further professional training, and is most often the first step in their journey to working in or around the healthcare professions.