To paraphrase LITMED, the leading medical humanities database founded in 1993, the Medical Humanities is an interdisciplinary field of humanities, social science, and the arts and their application to healthcare education and practice. “The humanities and arts provide insight into the human condition, suffering, personhood, and our responsibility to each other. They also offer a historical perspective on healthcare… [and help] to develop and nurture skills of observation, analysis, empathy, and self-reflection — skills that are essential for humane healthcare. The social sciences help us to understand how bioscience and medicine take place within cultural and social contexts and how culture interacts with the individual experience of illness.” With these aims, in 1997, Center faculty developed the School of Medicine’s Area of Concentration in Medical Humanities for medical students.
More recently, the lenses of the humanities, arts, and social sciences have been focused not only on biomedical science and healthcare, and the experience of health and illness, but on questions posed by a broader and more richly contextualized conception of well-being. The resulting field of Health Humanities thus embraces interdisciplinary methods, insights, and inquiries of the Medical Humanities; however, it also draws on fields like disability, embodiment, and trauma studies and explores the conditions requisite for a multidimensional, not-strictly-medicalized form of human flourishing. With this broader view, the Center has welcomed affiliated faculty working in the Health Humanities (H|H) and has expanded its own H|H programming.