Purpose: The UC Irvine School of Medicine Program in Medical Humanities and Arts (PMHA) is designed to integrate arts and humanities-based materials into medical education and to promote student research in the medical humanities.
The program’s goal is to show medical students how humanities and the arts can help them develop both critical thinking and empathy to better understand their patients’ illness experiences, the doctor/medical team-patient/family relationships, physician self-care, and various other aspects of healthcare.
The program has developed both required and elective curriculum in all four years of medical school. Over the years, PMHA has initiated a wide range of curricular initiatives including required curricular components in the Clinical Foundations courses, as well as the Family Medicine, Internal Medicine and Pediatrics clinical clerkships.
PMHA has also introduced several first-year electives:
PMHA also has sponsored many professional conferences, symposia, lectures and dramatic performances examining various aspects of medical humanities for audiences of medical students and faculty.
Representative curricular activities include:
Journal of Arts and Humanities
PMHA sponsors Plexus, the UC Irvine School of Medicine's journal of arts and humanities, which provides students, faculty and staff with an outlet for creative original work.
Graduation with Distinction in Humanities/Arts; Medical Humanities Awards
PMHA works with the Office of Medical Education to recognize outstanding student contributions in medical humanities through the designation of graduation with distinction in the humanities/arts awarded annually to three or four meritorious graduating fourth-year students.
Through the Office of Medical Education, the program also presents a monetary award to a graduating student for achievement in the arts and humanities; and funds one or two summer stipends for first-year students to conduct original research in medical humanities.
Learn more about PMHA course opportunities:
Ralph Clayman, MD; Aaron Kheriaty, MD; Johanna Shapiro, PhD; Julie Youm, PhD
The purpose of the kindness curriculum, which is a required component of Clinical Foundations 1, is to give students a space to think about the role of kindness, empathy and compassion in clinical interactions. Students also learn different facets of these attributes by examining the constructs from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
The kindness curriculum consists of eight (8) required hours in the first year.
Course objectives — Year 1
At the end of this curriculum, students will be able to:
Johanna Shapiro, PhD; Jamie Wikenheiser, PhD
This optional creative project has been incorporated into the Human Gross Anatomy and Embryology Course. It provides an opportunity for students to express their experiences in anatomy creatively through media such as poetry, prose and art.
Projects can be exhibited or performed as part of the Anatomy Donor Family session.
Participation in this project is designed to accomplish the following:
Johanna Shapiro, PhD, Tan Nguyen, MD, Monisha Vasa, MD
This elective uses short selections from literature — including poetry, short stories and role-plays written mostly by doctors, patients or medical students — to help participants deepen their understanding of patients’ experiences of illness, as well as patients’ and doctors’ experiences of each other. Most readings are be done in class, followed by comments and discussion.
Each student is expected to complete a creative project reflecting on some aspect of their experience as medical students at the end of the class.
At the end of this rotation, the student is expected to:
Joel Shallit, MD
The objective of this elective is to improve the visual skills needed in clinical diagnosis and the emotional sensitivity needed in compassionate care through techniques learned in examining works of art.
At the end of this course, the student will be:
Douglas Merrill MD; Douglas Haynes, PhD
This elective surveys significant themes in the study of the history of medicine and health care through the prism of the humanities. Each session is devoted to the discussion of one theme.
Each student is asked to lead a session of his or her choice. This entails prior review of articles and other resources, as well as the development of a class plan for discussion.
Preparation and leading one session and completing one written assignment on one of the other topics provides students an opportunity to explore these topics personally and to develop their critical assessment, discussion and writing skills.
Students are expected to be able to:
Ralph Clayman, MD; Aaron Kheriaty MD; Johanna Shapiro, PhD, and other faculty
This course, which is a required component of Clinical Foundations 2, emphasizes the development of empathy through a series of professional videos that focus on:
In addition, each session incorporates a physician and patient to speak from a personal perspective about how these topics have intersected with their clinical care.
The final session focuses on the end of life from both clinician and patient perspectives.
The kindness curriculum offers eight (8) required hours in the second year.
Course objectives, year 2
At the end of year 2 of the kindness curriculum, students are able to demonstrate the following:
Johanna Shapiro, PhD
This elective provides an introduction to reflective readings and writings that link these skills with professional development and patient care. In week 1, an introductory presentation orients students to the theoretical and empirical work on therapeutic and health-promoting aspects of reflective reading and writing.
Each subsequent week (2-9) consists of in-class readings by medical student and physician-authors, focusing on the socialization experience of medical students, professionalism and the doctor-patient relationship. These readings also provide models for different writing approaches.
In addition, most sessions include an in-class writing assignment examining such features as voice and point of view, parallel charting, free writing and write-it-thrice techniques.
Students are expected to come prepared to discuss readings and participate in writing exercises and class discussions that link writing to their ongoing patient care experiences.
A final session (Week 10) summarizes the course and presents student writing projects.
After participation in this elective, the student is expected to:
Penny Murata, MD; Johanna Shapiro, PhDSession description
In this required component of the Pediatrics Clerkship, students are required to complete a "humanities" reflection project for a student conference held near the end of the six-week course.
The project may be based on child advocacy, ethics, the physician-patient-family relationship, or any other aspect of the clinical experience. Students may choose the format. They may work individually or in groups, as long as each student participates.
After each presentation, other students are free to comment. Comments and discussion points are made or facilitated by the director of Medical Humanities and the Pediatrics Clerkship director.
Projects can be presented in a variety of formats — poetry, skits, song, point-of-view narrative, patient education pamphlets, a scrapbook, an artistic collage of pediatric patient experiences, a narrative, drawings and readings.
Students are expected to discuss their feelings about taking care of patients (including patients with chronic medical conditions and victims of abuse), interacting with parents and caregivers, being students, interacting with residents, as well as ethical issues.
At the end of this session, students are expected to be able to:
Session descriptionThis required component of the clerkship involves a writing assignment and discussion session that focus on difficult student-patient encounters and practicing medicine across cultures. It is incorporated as part of the four-week Family Medicine clerkship.
The nine to 10 students rotating through the clerkship each month must first complete a written assignment reflecting on various issues, including language and culture, that can complicate the patient encounter.
Students subsequently participate in a facilitated two-hour session to exchange and examine different points of view, and to interrogate their own assumptions and biases.
At the end of this session, students are expected to be able to
Johanna Shapiro, PhD
Readers’ theater (RT), a required clerkship component, is a minimal form of theatrical performance in which there are no or negligible sets or costumes, and scripts are used in staging. It has been used in a variety of educational settings. More recently, medically-themed readers’ theater (MRT) has generated interest in medical education circles as a method of engaging students and other learners with the human side of medicine.
MRT is an effective way of bringing together individuals with different backgrounds and life experiences and getting them to share their perspectives on various topics.
In collaboration with the UC Irvine Program in Geriatrics and residents from a local retirement community, we have incorporated a required MRT session as part of the Family Medicine clerkship.
Nine to 10 students participate in each session. Students meet for one hours with facility residents to participate in a brief skit that highlighs issues of importance to older patients, including ageism, multiple and chronic health problems, disability, dementia and Alzheimers disease, and end-of-life issues. The role-plays are followed by facilitated discussion.
At the end of this session, students are expected to be able to:
Ron Koons, MD; Johanna Shapiro, PhD; Elena Bezzubova
Session descriptionThis required one-hour clerkship component uses intimate, small group settings with a 2:1 student/faculty ratio to engage in narrative medicine, i.e., telling stories about memorable patient encounters. Students are expected to present patient care situations that troubled, angered, confused or inspired them.
Subsequent discussion explores in a nonjudgmental way various relational, ethical and communication issues raised. Emphasis is on self-awareness, reflective practice and translation of values into language and behavior.
Session objectivesBy the end of the session, students are expected to be able to:
Johanna Shapiro, PhD
Medical humanities encompasses a broad range of subjects and activities, including history, ethics, literature, visual and performing arts. This elective provides an opportunity for students to explore and engage in the analysis of various clinical issues in medicine through the development of a specific medical humanities-based project related to the art of medicine.
At the end of this rotation, the student is expected to be able to:
Johanna Shapiro, PhD; Matt Butteri, MD; Ron Koons, MD
The Art of Doctoring is a longitudinal experience intended to enhance the physician-patient relationship, expand students' communication skills, teach team-building skills and provide strategies to promote compassion and empathy as core physician values.
The class uses reflective practices, role-modeling, readings and case-based, problem-solving discussions.
At the end of this elective, students are expected to:
For more information, please contact: