About the program in Medical Humanities & Arts

Inquiring minds want to know: Exactly what is the UC Irvine School of Medicine Program in Medical Humanities & Arts (PMHA)?From humble beginnings (one elective class), today PMHA has required or elective curriculum in all four years of training. The program’s goal is to show medical students how literature and the arts can help them better understand and empathize with their patients’ experiences; and ultimately help them treat their patients more humanely and effectively.

Students enrolled in any given PMHA session may participate in a readers’ theater performance of Wit, a play about a woman dying of ovarian cancer; write a point-of-view poem from the perspective of a patient recently diagnosed with diabetes; make a “parallel chart” note recording all that they notice, imagine, wonder, and feel about their patient which has no place in the formal patient chart; interpret a short story about a patient with dementia and his family; draw a picture representing a difficult patient encounter; or reflect on cultural differences in medicine through a narrative essay.

Over the years, PMHA has initiated a wide range of curricular initiatives with Patient/Doctor and Clinical Foundations required courses; as well as with many clinical clerkships and the Family Medicine and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residencies.  It has also sponsored professional conferences examining various aspects of medical humanities; and presented several medically-themed dramatic performances to audiences of medical students and faculty.

The Program in Medical Humanities & Arts came into existence as the result of funding from a HRSA training grant in Family Medicine; and from the UC Irvine SOM Office of Medical Education. Johanna Shapiro, Ph.D., a professor emerita in the Department of Family Medicine, was the founder and first director of the program.

The PMHA also sponsors Plexus, (read an Introduction to Plexus, see also Plexus on eScholarship.org), the UC Irvine-SOM Journal of Arts and Humanities, which provide students, faculty, and staff with an outlet for creative original work; and recognizes outstanding student contributions in medical humanities with the designation of graduation with distinction in the humanities/arts awarded to a deserving fourth year student.

PMHA has produced research and scholarship about narrative; and the effects of exposure to arts and humanities on medical students. PMHA currently works with the Departments of Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Medicine, PM&R, Anatomy, and the Program in Geriatrics.  PMHA is a member of the UC Medical Humanities Consortium and collaborates with the UC Medical Humanities Initiative.


Descriptions of courses and components in the medical humanities and arts offered at UC Irvine School of Medicine, from undergraduate to residency training and faculty development.


Overviews all PMHA coursework opportunities across all four years of medical school.

John Stone, M.D.
The patient’s story will come to you Like hunger, like thirst – John Stone, M.D., physician-poet

Lists criteria to be considered for graduation with distinction the Humanities and/or Arts; describes the School of Medicine Medical Humanities Award given to a graduating 4th year student.


Describes 3rd and 4th year elective research opportunities in medical humanities; as well as research opportunities in medical humanities sponsored by the UC Medical Humanities Consortium.


PowerPoints relevant to Medical/Health Humanities


Articles related to Medical/Health Humanities


An online version of the UC Irvine SOM Journal of the Arts and Humanities, a collection of original writing, photography, and artwork by members of the UC Irvine SOM community.


A summary of special programs and events organized through the PMHA.


A summary of annual programmatic developments and initiatives” – to this page, with a link to that section

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