Medical Humanities Elective

Doctor for the Poor, painted by J. Leonard.

Preceptor: David Oshinsky, Ph.D.
Course Code:
Prerequisites: none; please note this one month elective will be offered only in the February block each year. This course will provide an overview of several aspects of medical humanities with instruction provided by NYULMC and NYU faculty. For students seeking either another time period or for those wishing to experience a one month or longer research/scholarly elective in a specific aspect of Medical Humanities (Narrative Medicine/Literature, Visual Arts, Medical History, Medical Journalism/Biocommunication, Clinical Aspects of Bioethics/Jurisprudence or Medical Anthropology/Sociology), please contact Stacy Bodziak ( for more information.
This elective is a “full-time” month-long course. The student/resident will meet for 2.5 hours three days per week with a faculty member/preceptor for four weeks. Extensive readings and study of online visual materials between sessions fill out the student/resident’s time. A weekly short paper or creative work that corresponds to the course subject material is required. A course syllabus and reading list will be provided. The month will be organized into four sessions (not necessarily in this order): 
  • Reflective Writing (to fortify clinical practice with narrative competence by learning to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by stories of illness);
  • Selected Aspects of Medical History (reading, review and discussion of important medical historical events that have shaped the past with lessons for the present and future);
  • Arts and Medicine (observation and interpretation of paintings and photographs that either document important aspects of society or that have served as vehicles for societal change);
  • Literature and Medicine (review and study of selected readings relevant to medical students, physicians and patients).
Objectives of the Elective:
This elective will provide students with a broad exposure to several aspects of medical humanities which are pertinent to their future careers as physicians. The elective will provide a platform for students to engage in discussions with peers and professors to discuss topics often not included in the medical school curriculum. The goal of the elective is to encourage students to understand and appreciate the role of humanities in their development as caring, thoughtful and empathic physicians.
Key Responsibilities of the Student while on Elective:
1. The student will attend and participate in each 2.5 hour session held three times weekly.
2. The student will prepare a brief (approximately 1,000 words) written assignment or creative work each week.
3. The student will read and/or observe the written and visual assignments in a timely manner.
Didactic Program:
There may be some didactic portions of each of the three weekly sessions. In some cases, this didactic portion will be presented by a faculty preceptor and in other cases by the students. However, the three times per week sessions are predominantly seminars with group discussions based upon readings and observation with the discussion led and moderated by a faculty preceptor.
Method of Evaluation:
This will be accomplished by consensus of the four course instructors/preceptors and based upon active participation and engagement. A pass/fail system with commentary will be used. 
Scheduling Information:
Months offered: February. One to two month Medical Humanities electives or longitudinal projects in Medical Humanities will also be offered in specific disciplines throughout the calendar year based upon prior arrangement.
Students per period: 15
Duration: 4 weeks


Visit the NYU School of Medicine Registrar's website for more information about signing up for an elective.