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B.A. Health Humanities

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Fast Facts: Health Humanities Major and Minor

  • Health humanities is a rapidly growing, interdisciplinary field that applies humanistic perspectives to health and healthcare. The humanities (communications, cultural and language studies, history, literature, philosophy, theology and religious studies, and the arts) are indispensable to humane healthcare, because they teach us about what it means to be human. They teach us about the human condition, about human suffering and healing, about human well-being and flourishing.
  • The health humanities program emphasizes the study of human dignity, human values and healthcare ethics (bioethics).
  • The program employs holistic and integrated understandings of what it means to be human, in contrast to what has been called “biomedical reductionism.” Human beings cannot be reduced to biochemical processes but are complex wholes of body, mind and soul. Humane healthcare depends on that recognition: on seeing patients as whole persons.
  • The program complements the movement toward primary and patient-centered care in health policy today. It provides an interdisciplinary approach to investigating and understanding the profound effects of disease and illness on patients, on health professionals and on the social worlds in which they live and work.
  • This program has five core courses. Majors will take four additional courses (see sample curriculum for course information): 
    • Health Humanities Foundations
    • Health, Happiness and Human Well-Being
    • Trauma and Recovery: Medicine and Literature
    • Healthcare Across Cultures / Health for All: A Global Perspective
    • Health Humanities Capstone Seminar

Program requirements

Minor: 20 credits
Major: 36 credits

Program outcomes

Graduates of the program should be able to:

  • Understand humanistic perspectives, human values, and their health applications.
  • Deploy a comprehensive and multifaceted understanding of human health as human well-being and flourishing, encompassing the physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions of human life and experience.
  • Use skills that are essential for humane health care, health promotion, and health stewardship: observation, analysis, communication, critical thinking, discernment, empathy, and self-reflection.
  • Demonstrate interdisciplinary preparation for humane health care through a deeper understanding of (and empathy for) impairment, illness, suffering, healing, aging, and dying as human experiences on an individual level and in community.
  • Understand the influence of social, cultural, and economic contexts on the manifestation of disease and the experience of illness.
  • Reflect upon and act appropriately as neighbor to the person who is suffering (Luke 10:25-37).
  • Counter the main sources of dehumanization in modern medicine, health care, and public health, including biomedical reductionism, misuse of technology, commercialization, and stigma.   
  • Employ knowledge of the main concepts, principles, applications, and controversies in biomedical and public health ethics.
  • Show familiarity with humanities concepts that are part of the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).


Students who successfully complete a Health Humanities major or minor, along with required science courses outside the program, will be exceptionally well-prepared for admission to medical school, to physician assistants programs and other health science graduate programs. 

This program is also ideal for students who have an interest in law school, in earning a graduate degree in public health, or in pursuing an administrative career in the healthcare industry.

Sample curriculum

Here are some classes you could take as part of this major or minor. Please note that you would not necessarily need all of these courses to fulfill a major or minor. This list doesn't include general education courses. Be sure to create your course plan in consultation with your advisor.

Course Creation Center

Expand and Collapse Coursework

Expand and Collapse ECN 3335 - Contemporary Healthcare Economic Systems

Examines the economics of health care and healthcare reform. Topics include economic determinants of health, the markets for medical care, insurance markets, the managed care revolution and the role of government in healthcare. Special attention is given to current issues in healthcare reform.

Expand and Collapse GCL 3401 - Healthcare Across Cultures

A course in Health Humanities and cultural competency. It proceeds from the premise that since a person’s experience of health and illness is highly dependent on his or her culture, cultural understanding is essential for humane health care in today’s multicultural societies. The course aims to help students achieve cultural competency, with particular attention to the development of culturally competent communication skills. It analyzes the influence of culture on human experiences of health and illness, and on health beliefs, values, and healthcare practices. Through interactive exercises, case studies, interviews, role plays, guest speakers, reflection papers, research and literature, the course investigates the increasingly complex intersection between healthcare delivery and culture. Students also examine the value assumptions of their own health beliefs in an effort to increase their effectiveness in intercultural healthcare settings

Expand and Collapse GER 3316 - Health and Functioning in Late Life

Overview of the basic principles and concepts of the normal aging process, including the realities of physical aging and common health deviations. Theories of aging, physiological changes in the older adult, and common chronic diseases are explored. Health promotion, preventive action and the healthcare system for the older adult are components of the course content.

Expand and Collapse HHU 4777 - Topics in Health Humanities

Topics in Health Humanities

Expand and Collapse HSC 2203 - U.S. Healthcare System

Covers the history and development of the healthcare system in the United States; health in society today; types of healthcare institutions and services, organizational structure, roles of healthcare professionals and functions of hospitals and other health facilities; accountability in healthcare and the role of government in healthcare, introduction to current models of health financing.

Expand and Collapse HSC 3101 - Health for All: Global Prspctv

Explores health as a human concept, profoundly affected by cultural, economic, social, political, scientific, environmental, behavioral and technological factors. Global health involves personal and population health issues, community problems and concerns that transcend national boundaries, and that may best be addressed by cooperative actions. Issues of social justice and peace as they relate to health are explored within a 'Health For All' framework. This course will focus on global health as a human right, multilevel factors affecting health, and the role of individuals, governments and organizations in improving global health. The emphasis of the course is to discover and appreciate all aspects of health.

Expand and Collapse PHL 4420 - Philosophy of Science

Looks at such questions as: What is science and what is it not? What are theories, models, laws and hypotheses? How do scientific theories change? What is the method and domain of science? Does science have a monopoly on "truth" about the world or does it ever achieve it?

Expand and Collapse PSY 2208 - Lifespan Developmental PSY

Cognitive, personality/social, and physical development from conception to death. Within a life span developmental perspective, the course examines research methods, developmental theories, and application of research findings to selected problems in the major periods of the life span: the prenatal period, infancy, early/middle/late childhood, adolescence, and young/middle/late adulthood. The developmental perspective provides an important foundation for understanding normal children and adults, while also providing the essential knowledge base for the modern view of psychological disturbances as "normal development gone awry." This approach has practical implications for individuals with interests in parenting, caregiving, education, social services, and health sciences with both normal and exceptional populations. Prerequisite: none, but sophomore standing recommended.

Expand and Collapse PSY 3216 - Personality

Origins, explanations, assessment and modification of personality as described by major theories of personality, with attention to ethical practices. This course includes a focus on applications to coping and adjustment of the healthy personality, as well as applications for helping individuals recover normal functioning. Emphasis is on the interaction of the individual's personality traits with specific situations as the individual attempts to adapt to the environment. Active learning components include theory-based problem-solving and responding to a variety of personality instruments. Prerequisite: one course in general or developmental psychology.

Expand and Collapse PSY 3328 - Behavior Management

Examines the use of scientifically established principles of learning to promote behavior change. The use of operant and classical conditioning methods and their applications for a variety of human conditions are covered. Special emphasis is on the application of behavioral methods for health improvement and for stress management. Topics include positive and negative reinforcement, punishment, escape and avoidance, reinforcement schedules, modeling, desensitization, progressive relaxation. Prerequisite: one course in general or developmental psychology.

Expand and Collapse PSY 3363 - Health Psychology

Aimed toward understanding psychological influence on variables that explain how people stay healthy, why illness occurs, and how individuals react when they become ill. Course serves as a review of determinants of health behavior through models of behavior which can be used (a) for assessment of barriers to positive health behaviors, (b) to develop prevention strategies for intervention purposes and (c) to understand prediction issues in regard to health-risk behaviors. Topics include biopsychosocial model vs. biomedical model, mind-body relationships, behavioral methods in health care, pain, acute and chronic illness and treatment follow-through/compliance issues. Prerequisite: one course in general or developmental psychology.

Expand and Collapse PSY 3423 - Abnormal Psychology

Provides an overview of what is considered to be abnormal behavior in American society. The main focus of the course is on describing various mental disorders and discussing how these disorders are explained and treated according to the major theoretical perspectives. Important issues related to diagnosing, researching and treating mental disorders are also addressed. Prerequisite: one course in general or developmental psychology and junior status recommended.

Expand and Collapse SWK 3350 - Understanding Systems of Privilege and Oppression

Deconstructs systems of privilege and oppression using the vehicles of race and class. Contrasts varying experiences with systems of privilege and oppression within the United States. Connects these systems to our individual and collective socialization to allow for a critique of how each has been impacted by such systems. Examines the internal and external, individual and systemic supports for inequity and provides a framework for deconstructing, dismantling and resisting those systems of oppression, individually and collectively.

Expand and Collapse SWK 3360 - American Social Welfare Policy

Examines the history, current structures and future of social welfare policy, and the role of social policy in social work practice. Course content includes: identification of local, state, federal and international political processes that shape the development of domestic and international social policy; analysis of current limitations and strengths in social policy; application of research relevant to existing and potential social policy; and consideration of controversial policies and social reform strategies. Policy analyses of the following issues are examined: income redistribution, poverty, discrimination, child welfare, mental health, housing, healthcare as well as other relevant economic/political/ organizational systems. The purpose of the course is to challenge students to recognize and understand the relationship between social problems, social values, social institutions, client advocacy, and social change as they prepare for entry-level generalist social work practice.

Expand and Collapse SWK 3362 - Human Behavior in the Social Environment

Provides students with knowledge and understanding of the reciprocal relationships between human behavior and social environments through a social systems approach as affected by biological, cultural, environmental, psychosocial and spiritual factors across the life span. Content includes empirically-based theories and knowledge that focus on the interactions between and among individual, family, small group, organizational and community roles in human behavior as related to social work practice. Course focuses on cultural, ethnic and lifestyle diversity and its effects on achieving health and well-being.

Expand and Collapse SWK 3395 - Social Work and Health Care

This course extends and elaborates on the generalist approach to social work practice in the field of healthcare. Students are introduced to social work practice in the health care field. The course is designed to expose students to the environment, terminology, culture, and nature of work in health care organizations. Students will examine the roles and duties of social workers in a variety of health care settings, e.g., clinics, hospitals, long term care facilities, mental health clinics, rehabilitation centers, and community agencies. Through class discussions, readings, site visits, case studies, and presentations from area health care professionals, students will learn about practice modalities for populations with various diseases/conditions. Topics related to relevant health care and institutional policy issues will also be covered. Skill development will focus on psychosocial assessment, case planning, intervention strategies and documentation utilizing an electronic medical record, and working with the health care team. This course emphasizes ethics and human diversity related to age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and disability.

Expand and Collapse TRS 3310 - Religious Perspectives on Living, Dying and Grieving

Consideration of questions related to suffering, dying, prolonging and manipulating life. Study examines topics related to the meaning and end of human life according to various religious and cultural viewpoints. Topics include the quality and sacredness of life, end of life moral issues, funeral rites, grief and mourning, suicide, and perspectives on life after death.

Expand and Collapse TRS 3311 - Rel Prspctvs Health Care Ethic

Explores a variety of concrete biomedical ethical problems within our society and the healthcare system from a diversity of religious and ethical perspectives. This course examines a number of current issues in healthcare. Attention is given to key principles relevant to healthcare ethics, including autonomy, nonmaleficence, beneficence, and justice.

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  • "The health humanities program has taught me that the focus of human dignity and well-being of every person is a crucial factor not only in medical practice, but everyday life as well, and that patients are more than just parts or problems that need to be fixed."

    – Rachael Platt, ‘20