New Interdisciplinary Minor Offered In Medical Humanities
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 23:09
Medical Humanities, Health, and Culture (MHHC), the University’s newest interdisciplinary minor, launches its two-year pilot program this semester after the Education Policy Council (EPC) approved the pilot last spring. Amy Boesky, a professor in the English department, is directing the minor.
Boesky spent the summer setting up the minor’s website and coordinating further with faculty in order to set up a list of courses which will count toward the minor. During the 2013-14 school year, students can choose from select courses in biology, communications, economics, English, philosophy, psychology, and sociology, as well as a few courses in the School of Theology and Ministry. In order to complete the minor, students must take courses from at least three different departments, including two that are outside their major.
Boesky is not the only professor with a central role in the MHHC minor. Four other faculty members—Rev. James Keenan, S.J., in the theology department; Clare O’Connor, in the biology department; Martin Summers, in the history department; and Sara Moorman, in the sociology department—join her to make up the curriculum committee.
“In addition to our core and affiliated faculty, we have a smaller Curriculum Committee that works together to select courses from different departments for the new minor,” Boesksy said. “We collaborate on decisions about curricular design, with representation from the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities.”
Beyond those five, a number of other faculty members are also associated with the minor. Thirteen core faculty and 14 affiliated faculty from a variety of departments are listed on the MHHC website as teaching relevant courses. Two graduate assistants are also supporting the minor this year.
The MHHC minor is 18 credits, with two of six courses taken up by an introductory class and a senior elective, which will be accompanied by a 25-page final paper. Students are encouraged to group their four remaining electives around one of five thematic clusters: global/public health; values and ethics; mind and body; health care delivery; or medical narrative, writing, and representation.
According to Boesky, students from a variety of majors have been contacting her about the minor throughout the summer, and about 20 students have already signed on to the minor or are in the process of talking with her to figure out a course plan. As the minor is still in its pilot phase, Boesky said that the number of students would likely be capped around 60. She noted, though, that not all those spots would be taken this semester, as she intends to reserve some spaces for second-semester freshmen.
The introductory course will be taught for the first time in the spring. “The Intro course will include guest faculty from a number of departments, including Psychology, Theology, Communications, Sociology, and the Law School,” Boeksy said. “We’ll consider what medical humanities is. Through a range of texts, we’ll treat topics such as the medical gaze, conceptions of illness and health, pain and representation. We’ll read texts by social scientists and accounts by health care practitioners (nurses and CNAs as well as hospice workers and doctors) in all phases of their training. We’ll also read memoirs and essays by individuals who have experienced chronic illness or significant disease, families dealing with illness or death, etc. I’m very much looking forward to teaching this course.”
Alongside the courses that are available to those in the minor, Boesky and her colleagues are also planning several events that will be open to the general student population. Alongside Cathy Reed, associate dean in the Connell School of Nursing (CSON), she set up a reading group, which will be held on three Mondays this semester. Each session will deal with short narrative pieces related to medical and health issues. Additionally, the minor will co-host a symposium on narrative, genetics, and identity with the Institute for the Liberal Arts (ILA) on Nov. 21-22, with Columbia University’s Rita Charon giving the keynote address. Boesky also mentioned that MHHC would look into inviting speakers and co-sponsoring a number of talks, on issues such as food nutrition, addiction, global health, and grief and depression. “We’re going to hold some introductory meetings, and we talked about the minors forming a planning and programming committee,” Boesky said. “The hope is that the minors can help to decide who they want to bring to campus, and that since they’re getting in on the ground floor of the minor, they can be part of thinking about experiences they’d like to have.”
Boesky will be holding meetings with interested students every Monday. More information about the minor, including contact details and event schedules, can be found at http://www.bc.edu/content/bc/schools/cas/medhumanities.html