Jay Baruch, MD
University Emergency Medicine Foundation
Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University
55 Claverick Street, Suite 100
Providence, RI 02903
Michael Felder, DO (Bioethics)
Assistant Director, Medical Ethics
Clinical Asst Professor of Medicine
Science and technology provide us with the means to diagnose and treat the sick and injured, but they don't address the big, human questions that arise when patients face suffering and death or prepare us to examine our values, frailties, and capacity for compassion and tolerance.
The medical humanities provide tools for fostering critical thinking skills, encourages respect for different and differing opinions, nurtures passion and curiosity, and fosters cross disciplinary discourse. Through stories we tell ourselves and share with others, knowledge is constructed, experience is interpreted and we work towards shaping what we consider “right” and “good.”
The medical humanities is interdisciplinary, involves engaging with persons who possess different areas of expertise and different ways of understanding and making sense of the world. It serves as a lens through which one’s moral imagination can wrestle with complex and messy issues, and ultimately, come to a thoughtful response. Before reaching for answers, however, we must first learn how to ask the right questions.
For me, the medical humanities is creative, analytical, and fun. It doesn’t shy about from tough, and messy issues, but embraces complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity.
The practice of medicine is a creative act. Students have taken on a range of projects in this scholarly concentration. These include narrative and creative projects, oral histories, curriculum development, academic papers, etc.
Biomedical ethics is, similarly, a multidisciplinary pursuit. Ethical dilemmas, sometimes defined as “genuine conflicts of moral belief, perspective, or position,” emerge in a range of fields from medicine to the humanities, technology, industry, policy and human rights.
Medicine is perhaps the most humane art and science. Its tasks of caring and healing focus first on the body but its goals of individual and collective well-being affect all aspects of physical, mental, and social life. The Medical Humanities and Ethics Scholarly Concentration encourages students to draw from broad, interdisciplinary approaches and resources to examine the field of medicine and the countless dilemmas which arise within it.
Some students may design a project that falls squarely within the auspices of either Medical Humanities or Ethics, or they may choose to create a project in the shared interspace of the two.