Medical Humanities and Ethics Area of Concentration

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, in collaboration with the Center for Bioethics & Health Law (CBHL), offers an Area of Concentration (AoC) in Medical Humanities and Ethics to enhance students’ education in medical science and its clinical application. The AoC is designed to connect students to a broader community of medical humanities scholars and practitioners both locally and nationally, while pursuing interests in the humanities, arts, and social sciences that they may miss from their college studies.

Medical humanities draws from the diverse domains of anthropology, cultural studies, ethics, film, history, law, literature, philosophy, religion, sociology, art, writing, and gender studies. Just as medical science draws from a number of sciences to understand and address disease and disability, the interdisciplinary field of medical humanities draws on these disciplines to enable physicians to provide more humane, sensitive care to diverse patients. Moreover, while the medical sciences provide many tools to diagnose, treat, or prevent medical conditions, the medical humanities provide intellectual and emotional resources for physicians when they face healthcare issues that seem to have “no good solution,” perhaps because of limited knowledge or resources, or because of a clash of values or cultures between their patients and what medicine can offer.

Through this AoC, students gain an enriched appreciation of the social context in which biomedical interventions and debates take place. Students explore how medicine and culture interact to shape provider and patient identities, healthcare practices, and healthcare institutions. In addition, they gain critical analytical skills needed to participate in the broader public conversation about healthcare.

Students work with a mentor to tailor the content of their AoC to fulfill their interests and to apply medical humanities perspectives within clinical contexts. Specific emphasis tracks are available in Medical Humanities and Ethics. Students may complete their longitudinal research project in conjunction with the AoC. 

Learn more about the Medical School Area of Concentration in Medical Humanities and Ethics

To learn how to enroll in the program, contact any of the AoC co-directors:

Lisa S. Parker, PhD
Director, Center for Bioethics & Health Law 

Gaetan Sgro, MD
Academic Hospitalist
VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System

Andrew Thurston, MD
Medical Director of Palliative Care
UPMC Mercy