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IUPUI offering new bachelor's degree in medical humanities and health studies

William Schneider
William Schneider View print-quality image


August 23, 2012

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The Indiana Commission for Higher Education has approved a new health-related liberal arts degree program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

The Bachelor of Arts in medical humanities and health studies offers an interdisciplinary curriculum drawn from humanities and social science programs within the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts as well as from other schools at IUPUI. The degree program is now accepting applicants.

“The degree is among the first of its kind,” said William Schneider, director of the program. “Most of the existing comprehensive degrees in medical humanities are found at the graduate level, primarily in schools of medicine and public health. The new medical humanities and health studies degree program at IUPUI will fill a much-needed demand for interdisciplinary preparation of undergraduates to understand the broader role and determinants of health in today’s world.”

The new degree program brings to bear the reflective and cross-cultural perspectives of philosophy (medical ethics), history, religious studies and literature to questions central to an understanding of how human beings deal with health, medical intervention, morbidity and mortality. Students also gain insight into the social, economic and cultural contexts of health, illness and the provision of health care with courses in the health social sciences, such as sociology, economics, anthropology, communication studies and geography.

“Medicine and health are ideally studied from a variety of perspectives,” said William Blomquist, dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts. “That is the hallmark of a liberal arts education. Our school is delighted to open up this field of study for undergraduate students and provide them with the opportunity to obtain a degree in it.”

With the IU School of Medicine, IUPUI has one of the largest medical centers in the country as well as the Schools of Nursing, Dentistry, Public Health, and Health and Rehabilitative Sciences. The campus has also attracted a large number of faculty in the humanities and social sciences who study and teach medical and health-related subjects, all of which provide extraordinary resources for students enrolled in the new degree program, Schneider said.

“In clear support of IUPUI’s mission to be ‘Indiana’s urban research and academic health sciences campus,’ this degree builds on existing strengths in the humanities and social sciences to enhance and reinforce the interdisciplinary approach to health and wellness at IUPUI,” said Dr. Craig Brater, dean and Walter J. Daly Professor of the IU School of Medicine.

The new baccalaureate program also will provide a unique and thorough foundation for students pursuing graduate education in health-related fields.

“An MHHS degree provides a stable foundation for students pursuing graduate studies in medicine, dentistry, occupational and physical therapy, not to mention health-related programs such as health economics and bioethics,” Brater said. “Equally important is the program’s humanities component that gives students a necessary grounding in humanism and altruism.”

In addition, the medical humanities and health studies degree will provide working professionals who earned associate degrees the opportunity to upgrade their credentials by obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

The new Indiana University degree program builds upon a 12-year-old program that has allowed students at IUPUI to pursue a minor or an individualized major in the discipline. That program has experienced a recent surge in student interest, enrolling seven individualized majors and 43 minors in the 2011-12 academic year.

For more information, contact the Medical Humanities and Health Studies office, Cavanaugh Hall 406, IUPUI, 425 University Ave., Indianapolis;; or 317-274-4740.