Humanities Education at Northwestern Universitys Feinberg School of Medicine

Montgomery, Kathryn PhD; Chambers, Tod PhD; Reifler, Douglas R. MD

Academic Medicine:
Special Theme Article: United States

The Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine is responsible for humanities education in all four years of medical school: five units of the required four-year Patient, Physician, and Society course, 37 to 40 medical humanities seminars in years one and two, more than 125 ethics case conferences in third-year clerkships, and electives for fourth-year students. The program faculty also participate in ethics and humanities education in residencies, and the program offers an annual one-year fellowship. The program introduced the small-group teaching that now characterizes much of the school’s curriculum, and its course units and seminars have been a resource for faculty development and curricular innovation.

Drawing on literature, religion, ethics, philosophy of medicine, film, history, social and cultural anthropology, and jurisprudence, humanities education is designed to foster habits of discourse on social and moral issues in medicine. Small-group teaching and interactive learning are its central pedagogical methods. Essential to their successful use in a school that enrolls approximately 170 students each year is a large cadre of volunteer clinicians who serve as tutors and the college system, a four-part division of each class instituted by the 1993 curriculum reform. Students are evaluated on preparation, class participation, and regular writing assignments. All course units and seminars are pass/fail (as are all first- and second-year courses); tutors supply narrative comments. The courses themselves are thoroughly evaluated by students and reviewed both by the relevant faculty-student committee and at an annual curriculum retreat.

Author Information

Dr. Montgomery is director, Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program, and professor of medical humanities and bioethics and of medicine; Dr. Chambers is associate professor of medical humanities and bioethics and unit director of Ethics and Values and Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications of Medicine; Dr. Reifler is associate professor of medicine and of medical humanities and bioethics and co-director of Patient, Physician and Society; all at Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, the Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

Correspondence and requests for reprints should be addressed to Dr. Montgomery, Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program, Northwestern University, the Feinberg School of Medicine, Suite 625, 750 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60611; e-mail: 〈〉.

© 2003 Association of American Medical Colleges