A painting is seen in the hallway of Penn State College of Medicine. It depicts scenes from campus, including surgeons at work, a sheet-draped person in a hospital bed and more, in soft neutral tones.

Department of Humanities

Humanities at Penn State College of Medicine

The mission of the Department of Humanities is to advance humanism in medicine and society.

When Penn State College of Medicine opened its doors in 1967, the Department of Humanities was one of its founding departments. In fact, it was the first Department of Humanities ever to be included in a college of medicine in the United States.

Faculty members have backgrounds in anthropology, literature, pedagogy, clinical medicine, philosophy, ethics, cultural studies, women’s and gender studies, psychology and nursing.

Collectively, we pursue scholarship to advance knowledge, improve teaching, and contribute to our community on local, national, and international levels.

Bernice Hausman, PhD, is chair of the Department of Humanities at Penn State College of Medicine. She is pictured wearing a professional outfit and scarf.
Bernice Hausman, PhD, Chair, Humanities

Our research topics include graphic medicine; vaccination controversy; child abuse; end-of-life decision making; ethical, legal and social implications of genomic research; nursing and nurse relationships; Alzheimer’s and dementia care and experience; professional identity formation among medical students; and race and social justice, among other topics. We also reach into the health care setting to improve patient and provider experience with programs focusing on compassion and empathy, often using arts and music.

In the wake of protests against the murder of George Floyd in summer 2020, we are rededicating ourselves to antiracist teaching and research. The humanities offer rich disciplinary perspectives on the history of racial injustice in the United States, ongoing discriminatory practices faced by people of color in health care and the joyful and painful artistic expressions of exploited peoples. Together, we commit to challenging racist structures in medicine and society.

The Department of Humanities is all around you. Join us as we work to advance humanism in medicine and society.

Bernice L. Hausman, PhD
Humanities Department Chair
Penn State College of Medicine

Contact us to find out more

More about Humanities @ Penn State

Faculty and staff of the Penn State College of Medicine Department of Humanities are pictured outdoors in 2019.
Faculty and staff of the Department of Humanities, November 2019

Humanities Spotlight

Advance Directives Project

Dr. Michael Green and Dr. Benjamin Levi developed an interactive, computer-based decision aid for advance care planning. The online tool allows generates a personalized advance directive that can be saved as a PDF file.

Read more about the Advance Directives Project.

Graphic Narratives

Since 2009, fourth-year medical students at Penn State College of Medicine have created comics as part of a course called “Graphic Storytelling and Medical Narratives.” The course was developed to show students how graphics and text can be used to effectively communicate complex medical narratives, and to help students develop their own stories into graphic depictions. Each student produces a short, original graphic narrative or comic during the class.

Read more about Graphic Narratives.

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