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Electives - Humanities and Ethics in Medicine

The Calls of Medicine

Elective Number: (Oasis E18x) 3525

Course Supervisors: Dr. Daniel Becker, dmb2y@virginia.edu

Designated Signer: Dr. Marcia Day Childress, 5361 Barringer

Coordinator: Charlene Kaufman, 434-924-5974/cmk2b@virginia.edu

Duration: 2 weeks

Available: Rotation 14b

Report to: Center Biomedical Ethics & Humanities

Time to Report: 8:30 am

Place to Report: Conference Room 5382, Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities, Barringer 5

Typical Day: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm

Attendance: Attendance at elective activities is mandatory.

  • Anyone who is ill or has a personal or family emergency must contact Student Affairs and the Attending on Service.
  • Students are allowed to take off up to 1 day per week to interview between November 1 and February 1.
    • Specific days missed must be approved by the Attending on Service.

Number of students per rotation: Minimum of 6, Maximum of 20

Course Description: The practice of medicine calls for humanism and professionalism as well as clinical skill and a comprehensive (cells-to-society), continuing biomedical education. This course, at the end of the fourth year, offers students a chance to think, talk, read, write about what it means to be a doctor, and also what it means to be a patient. From the impulse to serve and attend the suffering, the tug of stories, and the hopes and cries of patients to the more mundane matters of making house calls and being on call, the many calls of medicine afford opportunities to examine what's at stake in illness and doctoring. The course uses the humanities—the pursuits of literature, the arts, history, religious and spiritual studies, philosophy, anthropology—to frame and facilitate students' reflective engagement with the experiences of illness and doctoring and the ethics and values of professional life.

Learning objectives: During this elective students will:

  1. Explore through the lens of the humanities the social, economic, ethical, and cultural factors that shape and confound medical practice.
  2. imaginatively enter—through readings, visual art, class discussion, reflective writing, ward and clinic anecdotes—the patient experience.
  3. consider—in readings, class discussions, written assignments, and reflective exercises—the personal and professional challenges of doctoring and a life in medicine, including residency training, specialization, and career planning.
  4. develop strategies for sustaining and renewing meaningful personal and professional commitments.

Class sessions will address a range of topics, including the physician's call to service and covenant with society, patients' experiences of illness and disability, physicians' responses to suffering and spiritual/moral distress, medicine as a profession and a way of life, practicing medicine ethically and with cultural and narrative humility, physician self-awareness and wellness, caring for patients at the end of life, and finding and making meaning in a life of doctoring. Topics will be approached using narrative, literary, historical, ethical, philosophical, spiritual, and arts perspectives.

This course is a series of 12 seminars plus time outside class for independent study/research. Students will complete regular reading and writing assignments and experiential learning activities, and will also prepare projects for presentation to the class. Class sessions will be taught by interdisciplinary teams of faculty and will require a high level of student engagement and participation, with discussion of assigned materials, exploration of students' responses and experiences, and active learning exercises.

This description is a general overview. The schedule and particular requirements for the course will be established by the instructor(s) at the time of the course.