Archive for June 1st, 2009


Literature and medicine go hand in hand

June 1, 2009

Written by Emily Beckman, assistant scholar for the Medical Humanities/Health Studies Program at IUPUI.

Healthcare workers including physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and others need exposure to and involvement in the humanities.  Literature provides opportunities for exploration which most of us would not experience in real life, exercising our moral imaginations.  Great novels and short stories take us to far away places to meet people very different than ourselves.  Literature expands our imaginations, enabling us to better relate to and empathize with others whose experiences are very different from our own. 

Together with the Indiana Humanities Council and the Medical Humanities-Health Studies Program, IUPUI, St. Vincent Hospital has joined other U.S. hospitals and health care facilities in hosting a Literature and Medicine:  Humanities at the Heart of Indiana Health Care program.  Each of six seminars provides an innovative humanities reading and discussion program for health care providers that encourage them to connect the world of science with the world of lived experience.  The discussion group will meet bi-weekly this summer at St. Vincent Hospital, taking humanities into the heart of the workplace, directly affecting the way in which work is performed, and quite literally integrating the humanities with health care.  The seminar gives participants an opportunity to reflect on their professional roles and relationships through the lens of literature, and to have the opportunity to share their reflections with their colleagues in health care. The selected readings in the Indiana Lit and Med Program supply rich accounts of the illness experience from varying perspectives. 

If healthcare workers are able to relate to patients and other healthcare workers on a more empathetic, and humane level, not only will healthcare institutions become more humane places of healing, but communities at large will benefit as well.

For more information, visit