The minor in medical humanities draws on courses from a variety of departments and programs including art history, classics, history, languages and literature, music, philosophy, and gender and sexuality studies. It is available to undergraduates beginning with the class of 2018. An application process will control admission into the minor for at least its first two years. The minor is housed in the Washington University Center for the Humanities.

The minor approaches health, disease and medical care as culturally embedded human experiences that vary across time and place. In addition to exploring health, disease and medical care as core human experiences, the program of study is designed to provide a solid grounding in the textual-historical approach essential to all humanities scholarship. The minor combines disciplinary diversity with thematic unity to engage students with a set of tightly related "big" topics and issues. These include the contested meanings of health and disease; the ethical dimensions of medicine; illness narratives; debates over health and development; the role of medicine in war, empire and nation building; the relationship between religion and medicine; exchange and friction between biomedicine and other healing traditions; and the burden of disease as it relates to gender, race and class.

Medical Humanities aspires to instill values shared by all humanities disciplines: to appreciate multiple worlds and viewpoints, to communicate clearly and gracefully, and to read and think critically. Students will emerge from the minor able to apply the insights and critical methods of literature, philosophy, history and the arts to subjects often left solely to the natural and social sciences. Its goal is to demonstrate the enduring relevance of humanistic inquiry to understanding a basic realm of human experience.

Contact:Wendy Love Anderson

Medical humanities is an interdepartmental minor; Washington University does not offer an independent major in medical humanities.

Units required: 18

Gateway courses (at least 3 units):

CFH 130The Art of Medicine3
History 1640Health and Disease in World History3

Other core courses (at least 9 units must be at the 300 level or above) include:

Art-Arch 3632Renaissance Bodies: Art, Magic, Science3
Chinese 126Chinese for Medical Purposes3
Classics 3801Ancient Greek and Roman Medicine3
Classics 4361Topics in Ancient Studies (when offered as Science and Medicine in Ancient Greek and Rome)3
Classics 4647Ancient Madness3
Drama 456A Madman in the Theater: The History of Insanity on Stage from Sophocles to Shaffer3
East Asia 4033Culture, Illness and Healing in Asia3
ELit 370The Writing and Representation of Pain (ELit 370 in University College)3
E Lit 391Literature and Medicine3
French 447The Medieval Literary Arts (when offered as Body & Disability in Medieval Literature)3
Hist 2216Books and Bodies (Hist 2216 in University College)1
History 301RHistorical Methods — European History (when offered as The Black Death and the Plague in Europe)3
Hist 3067Current Questions in the History of Medicine3
History 3672Medicine, Healing and Experimentation in the Contours of Black History3
History 4990Advanced Seminar: History of the Body3
History 49CJAdvanced Seminar: Medicine on the Frontiers3
IS 326The Doctor Is In: Anton Chekhov and Narrative Medicine (IS 326 in University College)3
Music 3031Music and Healing3
Phil 233FBiomedical Ethics3
Phil 3001Philosophy of Medicine3
Phil 366Art and the Mind-Brain3
Phil 4212Philosophy of Neuroscience3
Phil 423Philosophy of Biological Science3
WGSS 3041Making Sex and Gender: Understanding the History of the Body3
WGSS 310From Hysteria to Hysterectomy: Women's Health Care in America3
WGSS 316Contemporary Women's Health3
WGSS 360Trans* Studies3
Writing 3112Exposition: Writing and Medicine3

Please note: The 9 credits of advanced medical humanities core courses (at the 300 level or above) must also come from at least two different disciplinary categories (Art History, Classics, History, Languages/Literature/Culture, Music, Philosophy, WGSS).

Affiliate courses from complementary disciplines in the sciences and social sciences (no more than 3 units total applied to the minor) include:

AMCS 226Sociological Approaches to American Health3
Anthro 3201Gender, Culture and Madness3
Anthro 3283Introduction to Global Health3
Anthro 3310Health, Healing and Ethics: Introduction to Medical Anthropology3
Anthro 3620Anthropological Perspectives on the Fetus3
Anthro 3625The Female Life Cycle in Cross-Cultural Perspective3
Anthro 3626Adventures in Nosology: The Nature and Meaning of Disease3
Psych 399Living, Dying and Death: A Biopsychosocial Approach to Understanding the End of Life3

Additional Information

The minor is available beginning with the Washington University Class of 2018. Interested students may be admitted to the medical humanities minor as early as their sophomore year. The minor will require a written application and a brief interview, with the aim of accepting 15-20 students per graduating class for the minor's first two years.

An up-to-date list of medical humanities courses and medical humanities affiliate courses can be found by searching Washington University Course Listings for the "CFH MH" and "CFH MHA" attributes, or by consulting the lists online.

For Medical Humanities courses, please consult the Minors section of this page or search Course Listings for the CFH MH (Medical Humanities) and CFH MHA (Medical Humanities: Affiliate) attributes.


Rebecca Messbarger
PhD, University of Chicago
(Italian; International and Area Studies; History; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)

Academic Coordinator

Wendy Love Anderson
Academic Coordinator
PhD, University of Chicago
(Center for the Humanities; Religious Studies)

Faculty Advisory Committee

Barbara Baumgartner
Senior Lecturer; Director of Undergraduate Studies, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
PhD, Northwestern University
(Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)

Amy Eisen Cislo
Senior Lecturer
PhD, Washington University
(Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)

Carl Craver
PhD, University of Pittsburgh
(Philosophy; Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology)

Robert Feibel
Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology; Director of the Center for History of Medicine
MD, Harvard University
(Center for History of Medicine, School of Medicine)

Jennifer Kapcyznski
Associate Professor
PhD, University of California, Berkeley
(Germanic Languages and Literatures)

Kristina Kleutghen
David W. Mesker Career Development Professor of Art History
PhD, Harvard University
(Art History and Archaeology)

Steven Meyer
Associate Professor
PhD, Yale University

Christina Ramos
Assistant Professor
PhD, Harvard University

Luis Salas
Assistant Professor
PhD, University of Texas at Austin

Priscilla Song
Assistant Professor
PhD, Harvard University

Corinna Treitel
Associate Professor
PhD, Harvard University

Colleen Wallace
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics; Director of the Humanities Program in Medicine
MD, Washington University
(Humanities Program in Medicine, School of Medicine)