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Electives - Humanities and Ethics in Medicine

Literature and Medicine

Elective Number: (Oasis E18c) 3503 (lottery)

Course Supervisor: Dr. Marcia Day Childress

Coordinator: Dr. Marcia Day Childress, 434.924.5974; woolf@virginia.edu

Available: Rotation 11

Report to: TBA

Time to Report: 9:00 am

Place to Report: Center for Biomedical Ethics and Humanities Office, Barringer 5

Typical Day: 9:00 - 11:30 am or 1:00 - 3:00 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 4, Maximum of 12

Course Description: Medicine is steeped in stories. Accomplished physicians are accomplished "readers" of patients and the stories they tell; most doctors are also accomplished storytellers in their own right. But what does medicine mean as a narratively based enterprise? This course introduces a range of literary works in an effort to help learners and helps participants cultivate "narrative competence," especially close-reading skills that should help them be more attentive to and better interpreters of others' narratives and also their own.

Learning objectives: Participants in this course will be able to:

• Understand connections between narrative (storytelling), literature, and medicine
• Critically examine works of literature about illness, caregiving, and doctoring
• Critically analyze the kinds of stories and issues of interpretation that are common and crucial in medicine
• Cultivate "narrative competence," including critical close-reading skills, in working with texts and patients
• Appreciate the "narrative medicine" movement that seeks to improve physicians' practice, with benefits for patient outcomes and the doctors' own compassion, resilience, and satisfaction
• Practice and refine their writing skills
• Design and prepare an individual project and present it to the class
• Reflect on their own professional formation and education

A series of twelve seminars of two to three hours each, this class involves generous time for discussion of readings and students' own experiences. Participants write regularly. Texts include short stories, novels, graphic narratives, creative nonfiction, plays, poems, essays, memoirs, and films. Seminars explore patients’ and family caregivers' narratives about illness and doctors’ stories about their work; patient/physician relationships; the physician as moral agent; the place of the doctor in society; and doctors' duties to hear and to heal. Each student prepares a final project for presentation to the class. Participants also attend Medical Center Hour.

This description is a general overview. The instructor will establish the schedule and particular requirements at the time of the course.