Medical Humanities, Society and Ethics (Minor)

Medical Humanities, Society and Ethics (Minor)

nursing students

What is medical humanities, society and ethics?

Health and illness are deeply personal experiences. At one time or another, we all get sick or serve as caregivers, and interact with a complex medical system. In the medical humanities, society and ethics minor program, you’ll learn to use humanities and social science methods to critically examine how we make meaning from these experiences and to recognize that we all operate within social, cultural and historical contexts. You’ll study the origins and nature of beliefs and values about illness and health as well as those embedded in society’s social, cultural, educational, legal and political institutions.

Why study medical humanities, society and ethics at UNH?

The medical humanities, society and ethics minor at UNH is explicitly interdisciplinary, meaning it integrates methods and viewpoints from multiple fields to produce new knowledge, insight and critical thinking on health and illness. The robust program faculty has expertise in health and illness across historical periods and around the globe. The minor is designed to enrich and supplement the education of those who wish to pursue professions in healthcare, economics, ethics, education, policy and government.

Potential Career Areas

  • Doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional
  • Behavioral or mental health professional
  • Biomedical scientist or technologist
  • Educator
  • Government and nongovernmental organization professional
  • Public health policymaker

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Curriculum & Requirements

As an interdisciplinary minor, medical humanities, society and ethics (MHSE) teaches students to use methods from the humanities and social sciences to examine issues related to illness, health, healthcare, the body and the mind in their social, cultural and historical contexts.

MHSE takes as its starting point the dual claim that the central human experiences of health and illness as well as the systems of knowledge that have emerged to classify them are culturally shaped phenomena. Bodies and minds experience illness; people suffer; they age; they die. But the meanings people attach to these processes are not givens in the natural world. They are rather forged within a particular society’s attitudes, values, beliefs and practices expressed through language, behavior, ritual and art. They are, moreover, contingent on time and place. Even the modern scientific discipline of medicine, its truth claims, and its terms are embedded in historical cultural domains. They have as much to do with attitudes to gender, race, socioeconomic status, relations of power, structures of authority and social hierarchies as they do with biology.

MHSE aims to bridge the gulf that exists between science and experience, biology and culture by challenging students to examine critically the origins and nature of their beliefs and values about illness and health as well as the beliefs and values embedded in their society’s social, cultural, educational, legal and political institutions.

MHSE students will learn that humanistic interpretive practices make cross-cultural and comparative studies of health and illness possible. The minor encourages students to take a broad community and global perspective on experiences of health and illness that address equity, policy and resource allocation.

Students are required to take 20 credits in courses that are on the approved list (see below) or that are approved by the minor advisory committee through a petition process. Independent studies, practica and transfer credits may also count for the minor with the approval of the committee.

  • At least 4 credits must be at the 600 or 700 level.
  • No more than 12 credits may come from the same department.
  • At least 12 credits must be taken in residence at UNH.
  • No more than 4 credits may be taken from courses outside of the College of Liberal Arts.

List of Approved Courses

ANTH 525Anthropology of the Body: Fat, Fitness and Form4
ANTH 610Medical Anthropology: Illness and Healing4
ANTH 685Gender, Sexuality and HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa4
ANTH 695Globalization and Global Population Health4
CLAS 550CIdentities and Difference in the Ancient World: Sex and Desire in Greece and Rome4
ENGL 415CLiterature and Medicine4
ENGL 787English Major Seminar (Only topic: Literature and Medicine)4
GERM 798Special Studies in German Language and Literature (Only topic: Narrating Madness in German Literature)4
HIST 437HHonors/The Mad Among Us: A Global History of Mental Disorder4
HIST 440BHonors/Medicine, Society, Science, and the Law: Who Makes Your Health Care Decisions?4
HIST 498Explorations of Historical Perspectives (Only topics: Pandemic! From the Black Death to Coronavirus or Childhood in Global History)4
HIST 500Introduction to Historical Thinking (Only topic: Landscape, Environment and Disease)4
HUMA 526Humanities and Science (Only topics: The Undead Humanities and Cognitive Science of Religion)4
PHIL 410Happiness, Well-Being , and a Good Life4
PHIL 424The Future of Humanity: Science, Technology, and Society4
PHIL 440BHonors/Who's Human Now?4
PHIL 447Artificial Intelligence, Robots, and People4
PHIL 630Neuroscience and Philosophy4
PHIL 660Law, Medicine, and Ethics4
PHP 908Public Health Ethics (undergrads allowed with special permission)3
PSYC 531Psychobiology4
PSYC 733Drugs and Behavior4
PSYC 736Attention Disorders4
SOC 570Sexual Behavior4
SOC 620Drugs and Society4
SOC 625Mental Health and Society4
SOC 635WMedical Sociology4
SOC 720Sociology of Drug Use4
SOC 788Advanced Medical Sociology4
  • Students must receive a grade of C- or better for a course to count toward the minor requirements.
  • Once students have declared the minor, they are required to meet with the coordinator or appropriate core faculty advisor at least once per year for regular review and assessment of their program, learning outcomes and progress toward the degree. 

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