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Making health care more human: WVU launches medical humanities and health studies minor

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As West Virginians face the challenges of 21st century health care, scholars at West Virginia University aspire to help students see this reality from a variety of perspectives.

A new minor in medical humanities and health studies from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences teaches the social and cultural contexts of health, illness and medicine. It demonstrates how perspectives of the humanities and social sciences can help future health care participants— patients and professionals alike—think of health and medicine as more than just science.

“The minor draws on a wide range of fields that allow students to understand health, illness and care not only as issues rooted in the technical and scientific knowledge but also as issues with significant social and cultural dimensions,” said Catherine Gouge, associate professor of English and the minor’s lead adviser. “Such understanding is vital for the next generation of health care participants, especially as political debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act intensifies.”

The medical humanities and health studies minor creates a synergy between the Eberly College and WVU’s health sciences.

Interdisciplinary studies promote the awareness of the shared interests and connections among disciplines related to health and medicine, and are, according to Clay B. Marsh, M.D., WVU vice president and executive dean for health sciences, “an important contribution to the health of our state.”

"Those of us fortunate enough to practice medicine realize the real healing takes place mainly in the personal interactions that allow doctors and patients to touch on the human plane,” Marsh said. “While technical skills rooted in deep science and technologies are tools of the medical trade, personal skills like emotional intelligence, service and purpose are the tools of the healer." 

Students interested in studying the social and cultural contexts of health care are encouraged to add the minor to their program of study. The 15-credit minor includes six credit hours of core courses and nine credit hours of electives. Popular courses are health communication, literature of the human body, public policy of aging, health care ethics and society and health.

The minor will be available beginning in fall 2017. Interested students are encouraged to contact their academic adviser to get started.

“The medical humanities and health studies minor is emphasizing from an early stage that the true purpose of health care is to treat people,” said Josef Heller, a senior biochemistry major from Beckley. “The human aspect of patient care cannot be overlooked. I am confident that the things I am learning from this minor will improve my ability to connect with patients in the future and provide them with the highest quality care I can give.”

-WVU-        

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