What are the Medical Humanities?

The Medical Humanities Certificate offers students across a wide range of colleges, programs, and majors the opportunity to approach medicine and healthcare in a collaborative and interdisciplinary way. Students will learn about the interactions between human experience, medical practice, and scientific technology, while also gaining insights into the historical, social, and cultural contexts of a wide range of topics including disease, pharmaceuticals, the medical profession, sexuality, and mental illness.

By participating in the Medical Humanities program, and enrolling in the certificate, students will be exposed to a wide range of courses in both the humanities and social sciences. For a list of possible courses, click here.


Why the Medical Humanities?

There is a growing demand for professionals in the medical and healthcare fields to comprehend and appreciate the ethical, social, historical, and practical aspects of healthcare. An understanding of these perspectives will enhance the knowledge and capabilities of graduates from a variety of fields including medicine, engineering, science, and public policy.

However, this certificate is ideal for any student, whether destined for the medical field or not, and is open to all majors, including those in the humanities and social sciences. Those who complete the certificate will go on to be well-rounded graduates with enhanced reading, writing, critical thinking, and communication skills - all of which are essential to both higher education and the workplace - and will have the opportunity to learn about medicine and health from many angles.

To see what students have to say about the certificate, and a breakdown of current student enrollment in the certificate, click here.


History of Purdue's Medical Humanities Certificate

- Professor Wendy Kline, director

Medical Humanities Certificates are taking off at major research institutions around the world, as close as IUPUI and as far as the University of Cape Town. In 2014, the Andrew Mellon Foundation awarded $1.35 million to the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) for a pilot project, the CHCI Medical Humanities Network Program, which aims to further the development of the medical Humanities as a subject of study. Dartmouth’s associate dean of the faculty of the arts and Humanities noted that the medical Humanities is “widely acknowledged as an area of extraordinary growth and impact.” It provides an opportunity to provide new models within and across fields and to foster collaborations between departments and programs. The demand for professionals who can synthesize the ethical, social, historical, and practical aspects of health care continues to grow. At the University of Cincinnati, where I was a professor of history of fourteen years, I helped to develop such a certificate, and was a founding member of the Medical Humanities research group (along with professors in sociology, anthropology, philosophy, and community health).

When I arrived at Purdue in 2014 as the Dema G. Seelye Chair in the History of Medicine, I learned that Purdue already offered many important programs relevant to medical humanities including the Purdue Women’s Global Health Institute at Discovery Park, the Public Health program in the College of Health and Human Sciences, the Nursing Center for Family Health, and concentrations in medical sociology and medical anthropology. This certificate program has developed deeper connections between these programs and involved students in a more tangible, practical way.

We launched the Certificate program here at Purdue in November 2016 with a day-long symposium entitled “More Than Skin Deep: Introducing Medical Humanities at Purdue.” Speakers included distinguished faculty from Yale, University of Minnesota, the University of Florida, the University of Cincinnati, and IUPUI. The dinner was packed with 50 guests, and the evening event featured Purdue’s own Black Voices of Inspiration, cancer survivor Tamika Felder, and distinguished Princeton medical historian Keith Wailoo.

Since then, we have hosted or co-sponsored many major events on campus, including film screenings on HPV and breast implants, a major ideas Festival on mental health awareness and a reading of Professor Marion Boruch’s Cadaver, Speak.

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