Medical Humanities at the Medical College of Wisconsin

Medical College of Wisconsin Medical Humanities Program

The MCW Medical Humanities Program, founded in 2006, is dedicated to professionalism, communication, empathy and reflection, through education in literature, medical history, the visual and performing arts and the social sciences.
MCW Medical Humanities Program Description

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) Medical Humanities Program, a component of the MCW Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities (a division of the MCW Institute for Health and Equity), is dedicated to professionalism, communication, empathy, and reflection, through education in the medical humanities, including literature, medical history, the visual and performing arts and the social sciences.

The field of medical humanities encompasses the duties of physicians and the characteristics of the professional, the meaning of illness and suffering, and the importance of listening to and caring for patients.

Why should medical education include the medical humanities? Traditional medical education has been successful in training physicians to be technically competent but has not excelled at producing practitioners: who effectively communicate with patients, who understand their professional obligations to patients and who convey empathy in their care of patients. Empathy is the understanding of and identification with another's situation and feelings. Paradoxically, evidence shows that as students progress over the four years of medical education and into their years of training, they become less empathetic toward their patients.

Many leading medical schools have established medical humanities programs, and the Medical
College of Wisconsin joined this vanguard in 2006 when it inaugurated the MCW Medical Humanities Program. The MCW Medical Humanities Program consists of curricular and extracurricular educational and initiatives for MCW students, trainees, and faculty, designed to advance physicians’ understanding of their professional obligations, enhance their communication with patients, to increase their empathy and to encourage their reflection. The ultimate beneficiaries of the program include the patient community in Wisconsin and beyond.

The MCW Medical Humanities Program activities include:

•Curricular Activities

Narrative Ethics and Reflective Writing in the Medical Ethics, Law and Medical Humanities Thread of the Early and Continuing Clinical Experience Courses –
o M-1 Foundations of Clinical Medicine Course, M-1 & M-2 Bench to Bedside Course and M-2 Foundational Capstone Course
Narrative ethics and reflective writing exercises are used in the Medical Ethics, Law and Medical Humanities Thread in the required Early and Continuing Clinical Experience Courses of the M-1 and M-2 years. Student feedback on narrative approaches showed that a strong majority of students strongly agree or agree that non-fiction narratives by physicians describing their encounter and resolution of ethical dilemmas in medicine are an effective way to teach ethics, and reflective writing helps students toward goals of professionalism, communication, and empathy.

o M-1 Anatomy Session: Dissection and Body Donors: Ethics and Humanities.” On their first day of medical school, all MCW students start anatomy class with an overview of the ethics, law, medical history, art history and narratives of anatomical dissection and body donation.

o M-1 Healer’s Art Course. First offered at MCW in 2008, this academic enrichment elective course gives medical students an opportunity to explore in a small group setting their new role as healers: helping them build generous listening skills, learning how to support patients in their grief and loss and dedicating their professional lives to service in medicine.

o M-3 Intersession Pediatric Ethics Readers Theater. The use of non-fiction narratives and Readers’ Theatre methods in the required M-3 Pediatric Ethics Intersession.

o M-3 Reflecting Back and Looking Forward to the Personal Statement. This required intersession leads students in writing exercises geared toward preparation of the personal statement in residency application.

o M-4 Writing the Personal Statement. This elective session works with students as they prepare their personal statements for residency application.

o M-4 The Art of Medicine through the Humanities elective. The M-4 elective consists of seminar readings, including prose and poetry, the visual and performing arts, reflective journal writing, as well as a final work product for publication or presentation. Seminars include physician writers and poets, and sponsored sessions by the local art museum, symphony orchestra, repertory theatre and institute of art and design. Qualitative evaluations show that students value the opportunity to reflect upon their profession, to improve their humanistic skills, and to write and to become familiar with varieties of medical humanities. Student writing is published each year, both in the final course booklet, and selections are published in the annual MCW literary journal, Auscult.

o M-4 Narrative Medicine and Reflective Writing elective. This M-4 elective is offered virtually and asynchronously. During this course, students will learn the principles and practices of narrative medicine using readings, visual, and performing arts. Students respond creatively to the works and in online discussions with instructors and other students.

o M-4 Graphic Medicine elective. This M-4 elective uses techniques of drawings and cartoons, known as graphic medicine, to advance professionalism, empathy and communication.

o Visual Thinking Strategies. Faculty lead sessions in elective courses using the art of observation to improve visual literacy, diagnostic accuracy, communication, empathy, self-reflection, and tolerance for ambiguity.

•Extracurricular Activities

o MCW Annual Humanities Lecture. This lecture series is free and open to the community. With lectures by Abraham Verghese, Ted Kooser and Bill Lydiatt, Charles Bosk, Ann Fadiman, Rafael Campo, Richard Kogan, David Watts, Danielle Ofri, Christina Puchalski, Christine Montross, Barron Lerner, Katie Watson, Jay Baruch, Craig Klugman, and Bruce Campbell.

o MCW Class of 1956 Humanities Lectureship. The MCW Medical Humanities Program assists leadership from the Class of 1956 and the Alumni Office in offering an endowed annual lectureship in the humanities. The inaugural lecture was held in 2007.

o Gold Humanism Honor Society. This honor society recognizes students, residents and faculty who are exemplars of compassionate patient care and who serve as role models, mentors, and leaders in medicine. It selects a student and faculty member annually for the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.

o Moving Pens Writing Group. This ongoing workshop, sponsored by MCW and Red Oak Writing, provides inspiration, practical support and feedback for creative medical writers drawn from faculty and students.

o Faculty Humanities Interest Group. The Faculty Humanities Interest Group has been a vehicle for faculty to present their works and current projects to other faculty for feedback and discussion. The interest group has helped to engender interest by faculty members in the medical humanities and the goals of the program.

o MCW Student Interest Groups. Faculty from the Medical Humanities Program are advisors to student interest groups in medical humanities and bioethics, including Physicians for the Arts (PFA), Medical Humanities Interest Group (MHIG), Auscult, and the Bioethics Interest Group (BIG).

o Julia A. Uihlein Bioethics and Medical Humanities Collection Selection Committee. MCW Medical Humanities Program affiliated faculty serve on the selection committee of the Julia A. Uihlein Bioethics and Humanities Collection of over 1100 titles in bioethics and medical humanities in the MCW Library


o President’s Prize in Creative Medical Writing. MCW Humanities Program Faculty select an annual recipient from submissions by MCW faculty, trainees and students who reflect on the profession of medicine through creative medical writing through narrative essays, poetry, and other forms of written creative expression through publications in medical journals and other venues.

•Affiliated Programs

o Auscult. A student-led, faculty-advised annual literary journal publishes essays, poems, photography, graphic medicine, and other literary and artistic pieces.

o MCW Common Read. A student-led, faculty-advised group selects a book for the entire MCW campus to read and discuss. The discussions are followed by a featured lecture from the author.

o Med Moth. A student-led, faculty-advised group writes and performs one-person oral storytelling.

o The MCW Orchestra. Students, staff, and faculty in this full orchestra of woodwinds, brass, percussion, and strings, perform concerts on campus and in the community.

MCW Medical Humanities Program Faculty and Affiliates

Arthur Derse, MD, JD

Associate Director
Bruce Campbell, MD

Program Administration
Kristen Tym, MA

Humanities Program Faculty
Carlyle Chan, MD

K. Jane Lee, MD, MA
Theresa Maatman, MD
Julie Owen, MD

Faculty Associates
Himanshu Agrawal, MD
Melissa Atwood, DO
Paul Barkhaus, MD
Lauren Bauer, MD, MPH, MS
Alexandra Bear, MD
Marshall Beckman, MD, MA
Ellen Blank, MD, MA
Valerie Carlberg, MD
Erica Chou, MD
Amy Domeyer-Klenske, MD
Kathlyn Fletcher, MD
Juan Figueroa, MD
Renee Foutz, MD
Jonathan Gully, MD
Steven Hargarten, MD, MPH
Ann Helms, MD, MS
Richard Holloway, PhD
Katinka Hooyer, PhD
Steven Humphrey, MD
Richard Katschke, MA
Mauricio Kilwein-Guevara, PhD
Jack Kleinman, MD
Sara Lauck, MD
Tracey Liljestrom, MD
Jennifer Mackinnon, MD
Sean Marks, MD




Faculty Associates (cont.)
Anthony Meyer, MD
Ahmed Obeidat, MD, PhD
Krisjon Olson, PhD
Wendy Peltier, MD
Teresa Patitucci, PhD
Hershel Raff, PhD
John Raymond, Sr., MD
Janet Retseck, MD, PhD
Paul Stellmacher, MD
J. Frank Wilson, MD
Marika Wrzosek, MD
Yong-ran Zhu, MD

MCW Affiliates
Bioethics Interest Group (BIG)
Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS)
MCW Common Read
MCW Orchestra
MCW Medical Humanities Faculty Interest Group
MCW Med Moth
Medical Humanities Interest Group (MHIG)
Physicians for the Arts (PFA)

Community Associates
Ruric Anderson, MD, RWJBarnabas/Rutgers
Brittany Bettendorf, MD, U. of Iowa Medicine
Paul Brodwin, PhD, UW-Milwaukee

Jonathan Gillard Daly, Great River Shakespeare
Amy Dorman, Milw. Repertory Theater
Elizabeth Fleming, MD, Dean Care, Wisconsin
Lloyd Hickson, Milw. Institute of Art and Design
Rebecca Imes, PhD, Carroll University

Ruth McEwen, MSW, Froedtert Hospital
Chris McLaughlin, Editor
Mark Niehaus, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
Joan Prachthauser, Milwaukee Art Museum

David Schiedermayer, MD, Theda Clark Pall. Care
Kim Suhr, MFA, Red Oak Writing
Marilyn Taylor, Wisconsin Poet Laureate Emerita
Scott Wenzel, Cardinal Stritch University