Biomedical Humanities Major - Course Descriptions

Professor Lisa Safford

Western history is rich in examples of art devoted to topics in medicine, and several new publications attest to this, revealing examples rarely seen assembled in great quality and magnitude. Medicine in Art (Bordin and D'Ambrogio, 2010) and The Art of Medicine (Anderson, Barnes, and Shackleton, 2011), among others, present a wealth of imagery devoted to anatomy, illness, disability, addiction, hospitals, physicians, nursing, healing, birth, and death. This short course will explore these themes as they evolve over the span of Western history from the age of the Egyptians some five millennia ago to the era of modern germ pathology and antisepsis in the late 19th century, and Freudian psychoanalysis of the early 20th. Using the Bordin volume as primary source, the course content will be supplemented with articles related to canonical works (such as Leonardo's Renaissance era anatomy drawings, Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, 1632, or Thomas Eakin's The Gross Clinic, 1876). Although the text is arranged thematically, the course will follow a chronological trajectory in order for students to relate art works to developments in scientific understanding, especially during the past five centuries. Critical to the course will be a working understanding of the meaning and purposes of art works, their intended audiences, and their union of human physiological or psychological subject and aesthetic presentation. Students will write brief response papers to the readings and on the final day of class present a short oral assessment of an object of their choice.
Professor Erin Lamb

The "medical thriller" has become a recognized sub-genre of literature found in every bookstore. These books—both fiction (think: Robin Cook, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Crichton) and non-fiction (think: Richard Preston)—typically feature doctors, scientists or medical personnel as the heroes/heroines who are working to solve threatening medical problems and save innocent lives. Medical thrillers are rarely, if ever, recognized as "literature" and are often considered "formulaic," but they are nonetheless widely popular. In this one-credit course, we will investigate several medical thrillers and the health controversies at the center of their plots. What ethical violations lie at the hearts of these novels? Are the "bad guys" people, corporations or microbes, and how does this affect the plot? What do the fears these novels invoke tell us about the societal expectations we hold for the conduct and purpose of medical and scientific personnel? Do these stories accurately depict the controversial health topics they portray? How might such fictional stories impact their readers' actual behaviors and doctor/patient relations?
Professor Donald Fleming

This course will examine what is arguably Europe's most significant encounter with epidemic disease: the outbreak of the Black Death, which swept across much of the continent in 1347-50, killing perhaps one-third or more of Europe's population, and recurred repeatedly over the next few centuries. The class will deal with the following topics:

  • The continuing debate over the disease's nature (was it Yersinia pestis or some other pathogen), a controversy that new archaeological and DNA evidence seems to be on the brink of settling.
  • Medieval and Early Modern diagnoses of the plague's causes and treatments for it (this will involve some discussion of humoral medicine in general) as well as public-health measures used to combat it.
  • The social, economic, and psychological effects of the plague and the mass mortality it brought to Europe.
  • Reflections of the plague's impact in the literature, art, and religion, focusing mainly on the years 1350-1450.
  • Most of the reading for the course will be in historical documents from the period under study, and a significant part of each class meeting will involve discussing that material.

Professor Sarah Mabey

The world is a dangerous place. We are subject to assaults from disease organisms and parasites, vulnerable to physiological degradation when we fail to acquire sufficient energy and nutrition through our food, susceptible to the effects of toxins, and often helpless in the face of severe physical catastrophes such as floods and earthquakes. In this regard, humans are no different from any other living thing on earth – the ability of any organism to survive, thrive, and reproduce is intimately connected with the conditions of the environment in which it lives. What sets our species apart is the degree to which we can alter and interact with the environment in ways that both support and undermine our own health. In this course, we will examine the connections between the environment and human health, developing a scientific understanding of natural and anthropogenic environmental hazards and exploring the innovations, policies, and behaviors that influence risk of exposure and the magnitude of impact. Questions we may explore include: Are rising global cancer rates related to increased exposure to environmental toxins? Can vitamin A deficiency and childhood blindness be eradicated through genetic engineering of common crops? Are the antibiotics we feed our cattle, pigs, and chickens contributing to the rise in antibiotic resistant infections in humans? Will a changing climate influence the distribution of disease organisms, bringing yellow fever or malaria to the United States?
Professor Erin Lamb

Popular legends tell us that Juan Ponce de Leon went looking for the fabled Fountain of Youth and found Florida. Today, scientists are searching for the Fountain of Youth in our cells and in our genes, and barely-confirmed findings are quickly transferred to the global "anti-aging" market, which is valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars. In this course, we will explore the human search for radical life extension both past and present, through story and science. From yogurt enemas to chimpanzee testicle transplants to today's regenerative medicine, what seemingly strange things have we done in the pursuit of rejuvenation or immortality? Why are we so obsessed with extending our lives, and how does this obsession shape our perceptions of aging? Would we really want to live forever?
Professor Willard Greenwood

Known to the public as CTE, this particular type of Brain injury, which is caused by concussions, has long been known and described but has only been part of the public and medical discussion until recently. In particular, this injury has transformed the nature of the NFL, an Eight Billion dollar industry, which just recently spent over 500 million dollars to settle a lawsuit by former players suffering from the effects of CTE. CTE is essentially brain damage whose effects are made worse when the brain is not allowed to heal. Of greater significance is the fact that football at the Pop Warner, High School and College levels has yet to adopt the NFL's concussion protocol. Part of my research will focus on this disconnect. In particular this course will focus on the book and the documentary, "League of Denial" by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru Wada. This is essentially a case study of independent science versus the science that the NFL paid for. The NFL knew about the science as early as 2007 but like tobacco companies in the 80s engaged in a campaign of plausible deniability and claimed that "more research is needed." By reading this book and watching the documentary, future healthcare professionals, whether they be providers or administrators, will be aware of the politics, causes and actual symptoms of CTE. Because, we live in a sports saturated culture, parents, coaches, players and even healthcare professionals are under unique pressure to get athletes playing again. Thus, lecture and discussions in the course will examine the nature of concussions in all sports. We will also explore what, if any, concussion protocols are in place for healthcare professionals in relation to athletes at all levels. I will be use the situation in the NFL as a framework for the course, but by bringing guest speakers and focusing on soccer, basketball, baseball, high jumping and wrestling, I will try to make our inquiry as expansive as possible.
Professor Acacia Parks

In this course, we will use fictional and autobiographical accounts of individuals with mental disorders to gain insight into important issues in mental health, which may include: 1) the boundary between normality and pathology, 2) barriers to seeking and receiving help, 3) challenges in complying with medication and therapy, and 4) ethical issues in the treatment of mental illness, including the doctor/patient relationship, patient rights, and liability. We will work to integrate research about what patients and clinicians should do with an understanding of what really happens in practice with the ultimate goal of better understanding the problems faced by individuals with mental disorders. Disorders covered may vary from year to year.
Category A
Professor Erin Lamb

Despite death's inevitability, we consciously and unconsciously disguise or resist its reality in dreams, fairy tales, allegories, and even jokes. In his book, How We Die: Reflections on Life's Final Chapter, from which this course borrows its name and a good deal of its inspiration, Sherwin Nuland describes how we have turned increasingly to modern medicine as one more means of denying the reality of death. As a surgeon with more than forty years of experience in a major metropolitan hospital, Nuland admits to actively participating in this denial. Modern medicine, he argues, influences how we as individuals and as a culture not only view but also experience death. "Modern dying," he contends, "takes place in the modern hospital, where it can be hidden, cleansed of its organic blight, and finally packaged for modern burial." This course uses literature, film, and history related to death as points of reference for examining the role modern medicine has come to play in how we die.
Category A or B
Professor Erin Lamb

Women have a complicated and sometimes contentious relationship with the biomedical model of health care. Historically, women have been underrepresented in scientific and medical research, although over-represented as objects on which these disciplines are brought to bear. Much as advertising has long been accused of objectifying and fragmenting women's bodies (displaying just a torso, just legs, etc.), so too has the field of medicine frequently been accused of fragmenting bodies, treating specific body parts, specific diseases, without regard for the whole person. This fragmentation may be even more problematic for women as, for instance, new screening technologies help to construct the fetus as an entity entirely separate from the woman carrying it. The field of bioethics arose in the 20th century in response to advances in science and medicine that raised unsettling questions about life, death, and access to new healthcare technologies. What kind of relationship do women bear to the burgeoning field of bioethics? This course will focus on bioethical issues particular to women's health and to women's healthcare experiences across the lifespan. We will begin by exploring with a broad brush some of the distinctive contributions of feminist theory to traditional bioethics, focusing in particular on the feminist critique of abstract principals and the call to contextualize, as well as a larger commitment to social justice. We will then narrow our focus to consider the impact of feminist theory on particular bioethical issues related to women's health and health care experiences. Specific course topics may shift with each course offering, but will likely include some of the following: reproduction (pregnancy and childbirth, prenatal testing, abortion, assisted reproduction, contract gestation), sexuality (sexual autonomy, contraception), disease (breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, clinical research), lifecourse development (menstruation and menopause, aging, physician-assisted suicide), mental health (hysteria, bullying, body image), and configuring the female body (eating disorders, cosmetic surgery). Course texts will consist primarily of critical essays with some literature and film. This course will include a final conference paper that will prepare students for the medical humanities portion of the BIMD capstone, which must be completed by both majors and minors.
Category B
Professor Sarah Berry

This course investigates concepts of health and illness through literature and linked readings in criticism. We will consider the topic from a comparative cultural standpoint, looking at medicine in North America broadly defined, including Puerto Rico and the Caribbean immigrant experience, with emphasis on indigenous and diasporic cultures. Questions for inquiry include: What is the relevance of culture in conceptualizing and experiencing health and illness? What are the concerns of specific cultures (African diaspora, indigenous American and Caribbean peoples, creole cultures, etc.) and how are these concerns reflected in their literatures/stories? How do issues such as cultural conflict, enslavement, colonization, dispossession, and cultural erosion manifest as illnesses, what are the healing processes, and what is the role of literature in articulating illness and actuating healing? We will begin by critically examining some assumptions in Western biomedicine about culture, human biology, and health disparities. Then, for the rest of the course, we will investigate forms of illness and healing within some cultures of the Western hemisphere, paying attention to different narrative constructions of body/mind, self/community, and illness/wellness in communities of Puerto Rico, Haiti, Antigua, Hmong Americans, the African American Sea Islands, U.S. American Indian cultures (Pueblo and Ojibwe), and the Mexican-American southwest. We will situate the assumptions, beliefs, and experiences of illness and healing of these communities within their specific traditional literary or storytelling forms, examining the role of story itself in constructing illness and healing .By the end of the course, you will have a breadth and depth of understanding of the ways in which health and illness (both somatic and psychic) reflect diverse cultural values and histories as well as how literary narrative enacts/intervenes in historical struggles among cultures. You will have a critical and theoretical vocabulary for discussing concepts of illness and healing and will be able to apply it to diverse social phenomena and literary texts. This course is intensive in discussion, critical thinking, and writing.
Category A or B
Professor Sarah Berry

Through reading among multiple genres (fiction, drama, memoir, journalism, public policy), this course examines the social determinants of illness and care from a discourse analysis perspective. We will study the impact of language on the perception of disease and healthcare distribution among people of different socioeconomic classes, races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and abilities. We will also consider the role of language and distinct discourse communities in actuating the legal, ethical, and public policy dimensions of health and healthcare. Four units juxtapose nonfictional and fictional narratives of health issues with U.S. policies in order to examine major U.S. health issues. Units include: 1) Race and Gender in Medical Research; 2) AIDS, Sexuality, and CARE; 3) Disability and the Right to Self-Determination; 4) Current Healthcare Reform and Class. In each unit, we will consider relationships among discourse, social power, and health by asking, Who is speaking? For whom is this speaker speaking? Why/how are race, gender, sexuality, ability, and economic status important factors in this discourse or law? Over the course, we will work toward an informed response to Thomas Couser's question in Signifying Bodies (2010): "How can we guarantee, or at least try to ensure, that representation serves the best interests of vulnerable subjects?" Readings will include Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Feldshuh, Miss Evers' Boys; The Black Woman's Health Book; Black Panther Party's Service to the People Programs; Naylor, Bailey's Cafe or Cleage, What Looks Like Normal on an Ordinary Day; Shilts, And the Band Played On; Verghese, My Own Country; Mairs, Waist-High in the World; Morrison, Sula. Policies will include: Patient Safety Rule (2005); HIPAA (1996), «Common Rule» (1991), Declaration of Helsinki (2002), CARE Act (1990), Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), Affordable Care Act (2009).
Category C
Professor Kerry Skora

This course is a deep study of the natural connection between Medicine and Meditation (related etymologically, as Kabat-Zinn points out, through the Latin Mederi, "to heal"). We combine third-person religious/cultural/historical/humanistic and scientific studies of mindfulness and its relation to healing and compassion, with "critical first-person" encounters of one's own body-mind, using Buddhist contemplative practices, following Brown University's paradigmatic program in contemplative studies. From a religious studies/humanities perspective, we study Buddha's teachings and practices, as well as those of traditional and contemporary Buddhists, connected to medicine, healing, well-being, and wholeness, focusing on Buddhist notions of suffering, and freedom from suffering. The practices and teachings are then related to contemporary studies from the science of mindfulness on the benefit of meditation for healing and caring with compassion. Keywords/Key Ideas Studied in This Course: compassion/kindness/love, contemplation, spirituality, health, caring, healing, wellness, wholeness. Course is based on Jon Kabat-Zinn's and Richard Davidson's pioneering work in mindfulness and healing.
Category B
Professor Sarah Berry

This course explores narrative techniques and representational strategies (such as metaphors) in stories of illness and healing. Through readings in a range of genres (drama, novels, memoirs and personal essays, short stories, and graphic novels) we will examine, on one hand, how illness and healing experiences are structured and circulated as stories, and, on the other, how stories of illness mediate the social experience of illness and healing. You will learn basic techniques of narrative analysis, including close reading skills, in order to interpret texts such as Broyard, Intoxicated by My Illness; Edson, W;t; Small, Stitches; Pekar, Our Cancer Year; McEwan, Saturday; Jamison, An Unquiet Mind and/or Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted; Chekhov, Ivanov; Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go; and stories by Louise Erdrich, Jay Baruch, Raymond Carver, and contributors to the Icarus Project.
Various BIMD Faculty

This course serves as a capstone experience for the Biomedical Humanities major, and the two required formal public presentations reflect a student's portfolio of educational experiences in and out of the classroom. The first presentation is a demonstration of the student's command of her or his research project, and the second reflects the student's integration of academic and experiential learning in the medical humanities. Students completing the minor are only responsible for composing and presenting the medical humanities presentation. The professors in Biomedical Humanities will be evaluating your two presentations. As part of the capstone core of the Biomedical Humanities major, the goals of the senior seminar are to:

  • Integrate experiences in and out of the classroom
  • Provide evidence that learning has progressed from initial to final study within the medical humanities
  • Present and defend the results of your research and demonstrate its relevance to your peers and faculty members
  • Demonstrate depth of knowledge in the humanities

Professor Colleen Fried

Students enrolled in this course are required to volunteer in a health care setting for a minimum of 30 hours, keep a journal of their volunteer experience, and to participate in a weekly class session. Topics covered during the in-class portion will include tips on keeping a reflective journal, working with issues of power inequity in a volunteer situation, dealing with challenges that occur at the volunteer site, and options for other volunteer opportunities.
Professor Sandy Madar

Students enrolled in this course are required to volunteer in a health care setting for a minimum of 30 hours, keep a journal of their volunteer experience, and to participate in a weekly class session. Topics covered during the in-class portion will include tips on keeping a reflective journal, working with issues of power inequity in a volunteer situation, dealing with challenges that occur at the volunteer site, and options for other volunteer opportunities. Prerequisite: Biomedical Humanities 61000
Category A
Various Faculty from Biomedical Humanities

Until recently, we thought we had clear answers to the question, "What is Human?" We knew the genetic makeup of the species; we knew how humans were conceived and born; we knew the maximum life span; we knew a great deal about unique human characteristics that made us different from other animals.

However, today's biotechnologies are challenging our understanding of what it means to be human. There are countless stories of athletes using drugs to enhance their performances. Ritalin is known as the vice president's drug because some executives are using it to enhance their abilities to concentrate for long periods of time and move up the corporate ladder. We regularly use drugs to enhance mood and modulate behavior. What does it mean to others when those who are wealthy and willing to risk their health have access to chemicals that unnaturally allow them to out compete or outlive the rest of us?

We are also changing how humans conceive and give birth. We can now select against undesirable genes before an embryo is implanted. While we once worried about transplanting genes, cells, tissues, and organs between humans and other animals, we are now building toward creating our own replacements. We are experimenting with ways to extend radically the human life span. Machines are thoroughly integrated into our lives and our bodies. Nanotechnology is poised to make targeted changes to our DNA. What used to be the subject matter of mythology, legend, and science fiction can now (or soon will) be generated in a lab.

In this course we will examine the scientific, ethical, and cultural issues raised by a variety of new biotechnologies, recognizing that we need to account for both science and culture in order to appreciate the their complexities and potential effects. Discussions will also focus on if and how we ought to control the development and use of these technologies.
Category C
Professors Cara Constance and Erin Lamb

This course will explore the biological and cultural significance of sleep. We will first discuss the fundamental properties of circadian rhythms in order to examine the influence of biological rhythms on sleep, with attention to the impact of light, activity, hormones and genetics on sleep patterns. We will connect this basic chronobiology to the field of sleep science and its application to human health, which has revealed that sleep is linked to a surprising number of physical processes and pathologies. In addition to impact on human health, the effects of human circadian rhythms on development, relationships, global travel, and policy decisions will be explored by delving into popular journalism, literature and film. We will discuss the cultural meanings we assign to sleep, wakefulness and dreams and how these meanings influence our sleep behaviors. Why, if sleep is so biologically important and critical for our health, do our institutional policies so often disregard it, and our cultural attitudes frame it as something that takes us away from productive life and that we would love to be able to do without? Throughout the course, students will be required to keep sleep logs and perform regular self-assessments. No prior biology training is required. The course is limited to first and second years ONLY.
Category C
Professor Emily McClung

Our human fascination with death is most likely due to the distant shadow of our own demise. Our earthly situation offers each of us a role, not only in our own death, but in the deaths of those we know and love. As each individual is unique and multidimensional, so is each death. This course will provide an interdisciplinary approach to understanding death and dying, grief and bereavement. We will create an intellectual tapestry by weaving together perspectives from the sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the arts. An examination of ethical and moral issues that are justified by each discipline will be explored. This course is not Freshman appropriate.
Category C
Professors Erin Lamb and Michelle Nario-Redmond

Disability and older age are social categories that anyone can join. Despite the stakes we all have as current or future "disabled" and "older" adults, people belonging to these categories frequently experience stigma and discrimination, with a double burden faced by those belonging to both. However, quality of life may or may not be compromised with disability and/or age. Personal accounts of pleasure, satisfaction, stigma and discrimination all depend on social policies, cultural perceptions, political power, access to resources and individual appraisals. This course examines both the socially informed and embodied experiences involved in the transitions to (and sometimes from) disability and age status. We will interrogate the assumptions and stereotypes about disability and age that circulate through mainstream culture and how these shape interpersonal and institutional practices. How might we begin to recognize, respond to, and change the place of disability and aging in our culture, and thus our own inevitable experiences?
Category C
Professors Emily McClung and Christie Borkan

This course is a combination of lecture, slides, discussion and field trips. As a group we will examine how the living express themselves artistically regarding feelings about death and grieving, looking at cultural differences in funerary and burial rituals. The art will include, but not be limited to, memorial monuments, cemeteries, mourning pictures and jewelry, photographic and painted portraits, death masks, and reliquaries.
Category A
Professor Nick Hirsch

Imagine a college faculty of Einsteins, or an entire basketball team of LeBron Jameses. Can it be done? Should it be done? What purpose would it serve? These are some of the questions that need to be addressed now that human cloning is closer than ever to reality. Beginning with a thorough analysis of the biological basis of cloning, this course will go on to explore the ethical arguments on all sides of the human cloning debate. The religious, social and political issues surrounding human cloning will be discussed, using both American and international examples. Students will formulate and evaluate claims about the scientific, religious and social values regarding human cloning.
Category A
Professors Colleen Fried and Emily McClung

This course takes as its starting point the following question: What obligations do we have to others? From this initial question more arise. How do we define obligation and who are the people or groups to whom we are obligated? Are we, as educated individuals, obligated to donate our skills and time to people less fortunate than ourselves? Does the relative prosperity most of us enjoy as Americans obligate us to share our resources with countries whose citizens live in squalor and without access to basic services, education, and healthcare? Should we help those in poorer countries before we assist the poor and disadvantaged living within our own borders? These are just a few of the questions we will consider.
Category A
Various Faculty from Biomedical Humanities and Nursing

Stories are central to our lives in general and to the lives of health care professionals in particular. Arthur Frank, author of The Wounded Storyteller, claims "stories do not simply describe the self; they are the self's medium of being." In order to tell a meaningful story we must form it into a narrative. Conversely, if we are to appreciate all that a story has to teach us, we must pay attention to how it is constructed as a narrative.

In recent years, medical practitioners have turned to the study of narrative as a means of improving patient care. Although medicine has grown significantly in its ability to diagnose and treat biological disease, medical caregivers often lack the tools necessary to recognize the plights of their patients, to extend empathy toward those who suffer, and to join honestly and courageously with patients in their struggles toward recovery or in facing death. Proponents of the use of narrative in medicine argue that caregivers' shortcomings lie at least in part in their failure to respond to their patients' stories of illness. Narrative knowledge will, they contend, increase a caregiver's capacity to honor these stories. The incorporation of narrative competence into the practice of medicine encourages, then, a reexamination of medicine's methodologies and the ethics underwriting the relationship between medical practitioners and patients. Practitioners trained in narrative become better readers of their patients' stories and histories and, as a result, better caretakers of their beleaguered bodies.

This course offers a narrative approach to issues in bioethics. It focuses on story (case studies, fiction, biographies) as starting points for moral interpretation in bioethics, with special attention to issues in health care. The course will help students recognize and evaluate conflicting perspectives about how ethical dilemmas should be addressed.
Category B
Professor Erin Lamb

Scholars in the humanities who study aging often argue we are "aged by culture," in other words, that we "learn to be old" through social and cultural processes, through our own expectations and other's perceptions of us. Moreover, they assert that these processes, expectations and perceptions¬ are often gender-dependent, and that women face unique challenges as they age. This course will explore the question: "What is aging?" We will find that there are numerous possible answers to this question, depending on who is asking and in what context. To reveal some of the more contested notions of what aging is, we will pair different disciplinary perspectives on various aspects of aging with the way these same aspects are represented in popular culture. We will keep the aging body at the forefront of our inquiries, questioning the relationship between biological changes and cultural ascriptions, between sexual identities and popular representations of the body, between the perceptions of health care workers and the self-images of the aging patients with whom they work. As aging is a process we all experience, this course will also ask you to confront your expectations, hopes and fears for your own aging, and to recognize how those impact your interactions with "older" people. The final project for this course will be a humanities style conference paper mirroring the structure of the medical humanities portion of the BIMD capstone requirement.
Category C
Professors Amber Chenoweth and Brittany Jackson

This class will explore disability through the power of literature and performing arts focusing on the theme of autism spectrum disorders. In the fall, students will be engaging the topic of autism through the exploration of literature and scientific papers, discussions with medical providers and families who care for people with autism, and through personal interaction with people who have autism. This research will provide students with a comprehensive overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder and the experiences of people who live with it daily. After the interview process, the students will work the material they collected and each other in groups to create a short performance piece that captures particular issues surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorder and engages audiences (predominantly high school and college students) with the topic. The hope is that, in the spring, a selection of the pieces created in class will be toured and performed to area venues and discussion sessions will be held to provide additional information about Autism Spectrum Disorder to those audiences. There will be a $300 field trip fee to cover a trip to New York City over Labor Day weekend to see a Broadway performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, a play adapted from one of the assigned books in the class.
Category C
Professors Carol Donley and Sheryl Buckley

Physical abnormalities look at the pressure to make everyone normal, and the consequences of those pressures. We will examine several examples of what the "normal people" consider to be "abnormal." The readings will include medical and ethical articles as well as selections of drama, poetry, and fiction.
Category C
Professor Erin Lamb

Every day we are confronted with accounts of domestic and global tragedies: inadequate health care, the spread of disease, violence and death. We see frightening images of mangled corpses, of the bodies of infants wasted by malnutrition and illness, of land barren and scorched. We hear stories of impossible suffering in the absence of available health care, shelter, food and water, of gross violations of bodies through illegal organ trading, torture and rape, and of unbelievable miscarriages of justice on the part of groups, governments and corporations. These images and stories reach us through our magazines, newspapers, the internet, television, movies and novels. Have you ever thought about the impact of these popular depictions—both "fact" and fiction—on the public's understanding of global health and human rights, on policy decisions, and even on scientific research agendas and medical practices? That is what this course will ask you to do throughout this semester.

Along the way, we will give ourselves a very broad introduction to the subjects of "global health" and "human rights," and to the way that—through the work of the World Health Organization, the public appeals of Paul Farmer, and others—we have become increasingly familiar with looking at global health through the lens of human rights. This lens allows us to see the "health problems" in front of us not only as matters of dangerous microbes and damaged bodies, but also as matters of embedded structural violence and social injustice, of unequal access to resources, and of a complex interaction of many actors, including aid agencies, celebrities, governments, corporations and the media itself.

As we explore a few general topic areas—such as access to healthcare, emerging infections and AIDS, genocide and torture—our inquiries will concern not only what the problems are and what is being done about them, but also how we are coming to learn about them in the first place, and how this delivery impacts our perceptions of these problems and our feelings about how they should be resolved. We will work from the premise that the images and representations we encounter—whether through journalism, film or fiction—significantly shape the ways we understand what is at stake in the problem, who/what is to blame, what can be done about it, and just what merits consideration as a "global health" or a "human rights" issue in the first place. We will apply the methods and approaches of literary criticism—careful attention to language, images and stories—to our study of these representations as they appear in a wide variety of "texts." Aesthetics is the study of how a work of art evokes particular feelings. In this class, we will extend that exploration to works that are not typically thought of as "art" and consider the "vocabulary," imagery and storylines that are shaping public perception of and attitudes towards health and human rights issues in the U.S. and abroad. We are all, after all, part of that public.
Category C
Professors Carol Donley and Sheryl Buckley

Mental and emotional disorders. course explores through articles, poetry, stories, and drama how those who fall outside cultural norms for mental and emotional health are "normalized," marginalized or kept out of sight. The clinical and ethical articles address the questions of how cultures construct many definitions of mental disorders, which often vary over time and between cultures. Definitions of disease and disorders allow for medical "treatment" and often for insurance coverage, while the same behavior in other times and circumstances might not be considered a disease at all. Literary works provide insights into the experience of mental illness and disorders. The course is constructed from the disciplines of medicine, literature, and ethics.
Category C

This three week intensive course examines several different health care systems around the world, looking at many complex issues, including how just the system is, who gets what kind of health care, where the system succeeds and where it fails, how it is financed, who gets left out and why. The class will propose ways of reforming the United States health care system.
Our biomedical humanities students have found many interesting shadowing internships, ranging from, but not limited to:

  • Karapitiya Teaching Hospital, Galle, Sri Lanka
  • Right to Care, Helen Joseph Hospital, South Africa
  • Magee-Womens Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Cleveland Department of Public Health
  • Cleveland Clinic
  • University Hospitals
  • Alliance Wound Care Clinic
  • NEON
  • Black River Education Center
  • Akron Children's Hospital
  • Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
  • Advanced Dermatology Skin Care Center
  • St. Elizabeth Hospital and Diagnostic Cardiology Associates
  • Youngstown Orthopedic Center
  • Northside Medical Center, Emergency
  • Canton Community Clinic
  • Eye Care Associates Inc.
  • MetroHealth Medical Center
  • Animal Medical Center of Euclid

Our biomedical humanities students have found many interesting research internships, ranging from, but not limited to:

  • Macromolecular architecture research
  • Department of Bioethics at Case Western Reserve University
  • Avium tuberculosis in white winged wood ducks
  • Developing PCR-based detection method of the Streptococcus species
  • Hindbrain gene expression in Xenopus tropicalis embryos
  • Modifications of the Polyserine tract in IE62 of Varicella-Zoster hindrance on future vaccination studies at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School's MVM summer undergraduate research program
  • Squirrel research
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