Medical Humanities Performing Arts Program

The UCI-COM medical humanities performing arts program is a unique educational activity sponsored by  the Office of Medical Education and the Departments of Family Medicine and Pediatrics.  The program is part of a larger medical humanities and arts curricular initiative begun five years ago in the College of Medicine.

The purpose of the medical humanities and arts curriculum is to integrate literature and the visual and performing arts as part of the education of medical students and residents to provide insights into the patient’s experience of illness, the doctor-patient relationship, empathy, ethics, and other aspects of professionalism.  This initiative has resulted in required or elective curricular offerings in all four years of medical school training, as well as in the family medicine and physical medicine and rehabilitation residency programs.

The medical humanities performing arts program is intended to showcase the patient’s experience of serious and life-threatening illness as interpreted through the performing arts.  We believe that such cultural events examining topics of illness, suffering, death and dying have tremendous educational potential for both students and more experienced physicians.  Because art and literature address questions of meaning in ways that necessarily engage the emotions as well as the intellect of the audience, exposure to performing arts is an excellent way to  enlarge the humanistic dimension of physician training.

In the fall of 2001, we successfully offered our first event, a two-hour program of personal reflection and music by Steve Schalchlin, a songwriter and performer with AIDS, to a receptive audience of medical students, physicians, AIDS patients and family members.  We are currently developing a second performance, a one-woman show by Annan Paterson, who is a survivor of ovarian cancer.  Each presentation includes educational handouts, as well as a Q&A session with the actor, and a panel discussion with medical professionals and patients. We also intend to explore other arts and humanities-based modalities, including student-mounted performances, dance, art exhibits, and poetry readings, for possible applications to medical education.