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University of Pittsburgh

Humanities, Ethics and Palliative Care Area of Concentration

Just as medical science draws from a number of sciences to understand and address disease and disability, the interdisciplinary field of medical humanities draws from the humanities to enable phyisicans to provide more humane, sensitive care to diverse patients. Moreover, while the medical sciences provide many tools to diagnose, treat, or prevent medical conditions, the medical humanities provide intellectual and emotional resources for physicians when they face health care issues that seem to have "no good solution," perhaps becuase of limited knowledge or resources, or because of a clash of values or cultures between their patients and what medicine can offer.


The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, in collaboration with the Center for Bioethics and Health Law (CBHL), offers an Area of Concentration (AoC) in Humanities, Ethics, and Palliative Care to enhance students' education in medical science and its clinical application.


Medical humanities draws from the diverse domains of anthropology, cultural studies, ethics, film, history, law, literature, philosophy, religion, sociology, art, writing, and gender studies. Through this AoC, students will gain an enriched appreciation of the social context in which biomedical interventions and debates take place. Students explore how medicine and culture interact to shape provider and patient identities, healthcare practices, and healthcare institutions. In addition, they gain critical analytical skills needed to participate in the broader public conversation about health care.


Students work with a mentor to tailor the content of their AoC to fulfill their interests and to apply medical humanities perspectives within clinical contexts. Specific emphasis tracks are available in Medical Ethics and in Palliative Care. The AoC is designed to connect students to a braoder community of medical humanities scholars and practitioners both locally and nationally, while pursuing interests in the humanities, arts, and social sciences that they may miss from their college studies. Students may complete their Scholarly Project as part of the AoC, and they may choose to focus on particular areas within the medical humanities, including ethics and palliative care.


For further information about the Area of Concentration in Humanities, Ethics and Palliative Care visit:


To learn how to enroll in the program, please contact:


Lisa S. Parker, PhD

Director, Area of Concentration in Humanities, Ethics and Palliative Care
Center for Bioethics and Health Law
Barco Law Building, Room 519
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
Phone: 412-648-7007