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.

The department consists of 10 primary and more than 20 joint faculty members. Faculty members have backgrounds in anthropology, literature, pedagogy, clinical medicine, philosophy, ethics, cultural studies, women’s and gender studies, psychology and nursing, and are engaged in a variety of innovative educational, scholarly, service and community-focused endeavors.

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

Collectively, we pursue scholarship to advance knowledge, improve teaching and contribute to our community on local, national and international levels. We pursue innovative research in graphic medicine; vaccination controversy; child abuse; end-of-life decision making; ethical, legal and social implications of genomic research; trust and institutional betrayal; nursing and nurse relationships; Alzheimer’s and dementia care and experience; professional identity formation among medical students; and race and social justice within medicine and biomedical research, among other topics. Our scholarship is published in top journals, contributing to the growth of medical and health humanities research nationally and internationally. In addition, with our research we seek to transform care practices, pedagogy and institutional norms with humanistic perspectives on illness, medicine and health in the 21st century.

We also reach into the health-care setting to improve patient and provider experience with programs focusing on compassion and empathy, often utilizing arts and music. The Department of Humanities at Penn State College of Medicine is innovative in its Arts in Health programming through Center Stage and the Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine.

The Department of Humanities is all around you. And we are here to serve.

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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