In a project spear headed by MA program Alumnus Linda Billy, Drs. Basile, Bronson, and Coulehan--founders of the Astonished Harvest poetry collective--recently worked with oncology impatients for "The Write Stuff. Details can be found here
There is a place where the human side of medicine is elevated, examined, and revered. Our Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics, situated in the Department of Preventive Medicine in the School of Medicine, is devoted to training medical students and health professionals as well as conducting high impact research and scholarship in the three thematic components reflected in its name.
The medical humanities, including literature, history, philosophy, and the arts, sensitize students and health professionals to the patient as a person who deserves to be treated with dignity against the background of a healthcare system that can be de-humanizing, impersonal, and lacking care in the most fundamental sense of the term. Through novels, short stories and poems, those who have experienced illness illustrate our common humanity, while those who provide care are able to reflect on the meaning of their professional calling. In a time when many patients complain that they are treated more like biological specimens than human beings, the medical humanities play a critical role in the education of medical professionals. Appreciation of art and literature in the context of illness and healing develops the mindfulness, empathy, and compassion that can inform, even transform, medical practice.
It is not a new idea that compassion should be an essential quality in medical care. Dr. Francis Peabody of Harvard wrote nearly a century ago, “The secret to the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.” In the absence of compassion, patients are dissatisfied and professionals lament a loss of meaning and gratification in their work. Compassionate care makes otherwise technically competent students real healers, motivates them to travel to Haiti after an earthquake or spend their Sundays providing free care for the uninsured, and ultimately makes their professional lives truly successful. Our Center takes responsibility for the education of students and professionals in compassionate care through emphasizing professionalism, empathy, and caring for self and others, and by bringing to the forefront the new science of compassion as an evolved human capacity which has a clear impact on patient outcomes and professional flourishing.
Bioethics and Clinical Ethics
Bioethics is the systematic study of the moral dimensions – including moral vision, decisions, conduct, and policies – of the life sciences and health care, employing a variety of ethical methodologies in an interdisciplinary setting. From the beginning to the end of life, biotechnologies raise every conceivable question about human dignity and the future of human nature itself. Nearly all academic disciplines contribute to the ongoing discussions in bioethics.
Clinical ethics is an essential modulation of compassionate care, for it involves respect for patients and families as they make difficult decisions about treatment. Our Center is deeply immersed in clinical ethics across the Medical Center, and in the education of medical students in this vital area which is now a core aspect of licensure exams and of ongoing professional development. We provide key faculty leadership for the Hospital Ethics Committee and clinical consultation service.
We seek to: