Elderly people sitting near eachother
As West Virginians face the challenges of 21st century healthcare, scholars at West Virginia University aspire to help students see this reality from a variety of perspectives. 

A new minor in medical humanities and health studies from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences teaches the social and cultural contexts of health, illness and medicine. It demonstrates how perspectives of the humanities and social sciences can help future healthcare participants, both patients and professionals alike, think of health and medicine as more than just science. 

Through interdisciplinary study of subjects like communication studies, English, gerontology, philosophy, psychology, social work, sociology and women’s and gender studies, the minor promotes awareness of the shared interests and connections among disciplines related to health and medicine. 

“The minor draws on a wide range of fields that allow students to understand health, illness and care not only as issues rooted in the technical and scientific knowledge but also as issues with significant social and cultural dimensions,” said Catherine Gouge, associate professor of English and the minor’s lead adviser. “Such understanding is vital for the next generation of healthcare participants, especially as political debate surrounding the Affordable Care Act intensifies.” 

Students interested in studying the social and cultural contexts of healthcare are encouraged to add the minor to their program of study. The 15-credit minor includes six credit hours of core courses and nine credit hours of electives. Popular courses are Health Communication, Literature of the Human Body, Public Policy of Aging, Healthcare Ethics, and Society and Health. 

The minor began in fall 2017. Interested students are encouraged to contact their academic adviser to get started. 

“The medical humanities and health studies minor is emphasizing from an early stage that the true purpose of healthcare is to treat people,” said Josef Heller, a senior biochemistry major from Beckley, West Virginia “The human aspect of patient care cannot be overlooked. I am confident that the things I am learning from this minor will improve my ability to connect with patients in the future and provide them with the highest quality care I can give.”