Humanities in Film is a blue book elective course offered to students of McGovern Medical School and sponsored by the McGovern Center. The elective is an initiative led and coordinated by medical school students interested in engaging with peers in dialogue about the connections between health, the health sciences, and medicine and film. Students attend one film screening each month throughout the academic year. The series was first offered as a special event in Fall 2014 before its formal designation as a blue book elective in Fall 2017. The series was discussed as well in a Scoop story.
Students explore ethical, patient issues with help from silver screen
Written by: Jonathan Garris, Office of Communications
A group of McGovern Medical School students is using the power of film to spur discussions about humanities and medicine as part of a blue book elective course offered by the McGovern Center for Humanities & Ethics.
The course, Humanities in Film, gives students and faculty an opportunity to have an inter-professional dialogue about the relationships between movies and the health sciences. The course is held 6 to 9 p.m. typically on Wednesdays in MSB 2.135 and is coordinated by medical school students Kira Gomez, Amy Mullikin, and Mary Adeyeye.
The course is part of a number of blue book electives offered by the McGovern Center for Humanities & Ethics, designed to “enrich and enhance the medical student’s core curriculum experience.” They including courses like the Sacred Sites of Houston, where students visit places of worship and interact with congregation members, and the Art of Observation, where students improve their observational skills through a unique collaboration with The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.
The three students handle everything from selecting films, scheduling times, sending out emails to interested attendees, and even supplying pizza (so long as attendees have $3 with them). The elective opened with “Hacksaw Ridge” on Aug. 15 and the next will be “The Theory of Everything” Sept. 26.
“The course provides an opportunity for students to talk about not only ethical issues but patient perspectives on certain medical issues that we may not actually go over in class,” Gomez said. “With movies, you have the emotional aspect of things as well that can help personalize experiences rather than just, say, studying general principles of anatomy.”
Films offer a “unique perspective” on what artists or creators are trying to portray, particularly regarding health issues, and attendees say the discussions following the viewings have been helpful. For example, students discussed some of the potential ramifications of gene editing following a screening of “Gattaca,” a 1997 science fiction film in which the lead character, played by Ethan Hawke, attempts to overcome genetic profiling and discrimination in a future where genetic selection has become commonplace.
“Because it’s a smaller group of people, we can really delve into topics that we don’t really have a chance to cover in other classes,” Adeyeye said. “It allows to see other people’s perspectives and their interpretations while having that emotional response.”
When choosing films, the trio examined health observances and awareness months and crafted certain selections around them, Mullikin said. For the most part, however, movies are chosen on their ethical issues and what kinds of medical conditions are shown. The chance for more group discussions is always a positive.
“It’s very interesting to see how people think and how they process different aspects of how the science is portrayed,” Mullikin said. “You have a chance to meet new people and learn about their experiences.”