Betsy Blyler, Artist-in-Residence at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, works on a mural in the fourth floor central rotunda with hospital visitor Colin Volgemuth. Blyler and Volgemuth are pictured at left, looking leftward at the mural, each holding a paintbrush.

Department of Humanities

Humanities Programs and Initiatives

The Department of Humanities, the first to be situated in a college of medicine, is dedicated to the Penn State missions of teaching, research and service. Our courses are woven throughout the medical school and residency curriculum and our scholarship is multidisciplinary and cutting-edge. We are leaders in the study of end-of-life care, prevention of child abuse and relational behaviors. Our service activities include clinical care, community outreach, arts and healing, the Farmer’s Market, global missions and many others.

Learn more about some of our initiatives and programs here.

The Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine

The Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine is an endowment that supports projects and initiatives that promote compassion in healthcare settings. This work has flourished with the support of many departments and includes ambassadors from throughout the hospital, medical school and community.

Learn more about the Kienle Center

Center Stage

Center Stage enhances the healthcare experience by showcasing art, music and creative writing that calms, nurtures and inspires. Through Center Stage, we seek ways to enhance the well-being of individuals who come through our doors, whether they are patients, caregivers, employees or students.

Learn more about Center Stage

Wild Onions

Wild Onions is an annual journal of poetry, prose and visual art funded by The Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine. All works in Wild Onions are created by members of the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center community. Most entries pertain to some dimension of medicine, but submissions are welcomed on all topics.

Learn more and submit to Wild Onions

Patients as Teachers Project

Embedded into the first year of the MD student curriculum is the experiential Patients as Teachers Project, which involves students visiting patients in their homes to learn about the lived experience of illness. Some students make short films about their patients and screen them in each spring. Others write essays reflecting on what they have learned from their patients or develop creative projects to honor their patients' stories.

Learn more about Patients as Teachers

Advance Directives: Making Your Wishes Known

Making Your Wishes Known is an online-decision making aid to help individuals prepare for future medical decisions.

Learn more about Making Your Wishes Known

Ethics Consultations

Clinical ethics consultation is one of many services that can help with difficult choices or when there are disagreements about a patient's care. Most challenges that arise within patient care are handled by speaking with the medical team members directly involved in care, as well as social workers, clergy and the patient advocate for the hospital. When uncertainty or conflict remains, ethics consultations are sometimes requested.

Learn more about Ethics Consultations
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Ethics Pocket Cards

The ethics consultation service at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center developed ethics pocket cards to summarize, in a clear and accessible manner, core knowledge about clinical ethics. We hope that these cards will be helpful not only to individual health professionals, but also to institutions who may wish to develop similar materials for their own use.

Learn more about Ethics Pocket Cards

Look Out for Child Abuse

Look Out for Child Abuse is an online mandated-reporter training that uses interactive videos to help early childhood professionals learn when and how to report suspected child abuse.

Learn more about Look Out for Child Abuse

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.

Learn more about Graphic Narratives


TimeSlips is an improvisational creative storytelling activity used in care settings for persons with dementia. It draws upon the remaining strengths of people with cognitive challenges, and places emphasis on imagination rather than memory. Students at Penn State College of Medicine visit local assisted-living homes to facilitate TimeSlips sessions and study the impact on quality of life.

Learn more about TimeSlips

Physician Writers Group

Penn State Health's Physician Writers Group is a workshop for clinicians who are interested in creative writing for publication in professional medical journals, hosted by Dr. Kimberly Myers, who holds a doctorate in literature.

Learn more about Physician Writers Group

Snapshots of Strength

Snapshots of Strength provides families struggling against pediatric cancers with professional-quality images that celebrate their children's resilience and strength. Snapshots of Strength is a partnership between Dan Shapiro, PhD, Richard Hammer, MD, and the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Children's Hospital.

Learn more about Snapshots of Strength

Qualitative Research Initiative

Qualitative research is designed to reveal a target audience's range of behavior and the perceptions that drive it with reference to specific topics or issues. It uses in-depth studies of small groups of people to guide and support the construction of hypotheses. The results are descriptive rather than predictive.

Learn more about the Qualitative Research Initiative

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