Director, McGovern Center for Humanities & Ethics
McGovern Chair in Medical Humanities
Education & Training
- Yale University
- Wesleyan University
- University of Rochester
Thomas R. Cole is the McGovern Chair in Medical Humanities and Director of the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Cole graduated from Yale University (B.A., Philosophy, 1971), Wesleyan University (M.A., History, 1975), and the University of Rochester (Ph.D., History, 1981).
Books on Aging
Dr. Cole has published many articles and books on the history of aging and humanistic gerontology. His book The Journey of Life: A Cultural History of Aging in America (Cambridge University Press, 1992) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He is senior editor of What Does It Mean to Grow Old? (Duke, 1986), the Handbook of Humanities and Aging (Springer, 1992; 2nd edition, 1999), and Voices and Visions: Toward a Critical Gerontology (Springer, 1993). Other co-edited books include The Oxford Book of Aging (noted by the New Yorker as one of the most memorable books of 1995) and Guide to Humanistic Studies in Aging: What Does It Mean to Grow Old? (Johns Hopkins U Press, 2010).
Biography and Civil Rights Film
Cole’s interest in the life stories of older people has taken him into biography and film-making. In 1984, he encountered a hospitalized psychiatric patient who claimed he was the “original Texas integration leader.” Their collaboration resulted in a book—No Color Is My Kind: The Life of Eldrewey Stearns and the Desegregation of Houston (University of Texas Press, 1997)—and an accompanying film, The Strange Demise of Jim Crow, broadcast nationally on over 60 PBS stations and internationally by the State Department. The documentary received numerous awards and was nominated for a regional Emmy and a National Humanities Medal.
Medical Humanities Writing and Films
Cole’s film, Still Life: The Humanity of Anatomy, was an official selection at the Doubletake Documentary Film Festival in April 2002. This work explores the special yet unstated relationship between medical students in the anatomy lab and the people who donate their bodies for dissection. In 2001, Cole’s writing workshop programs for elders was featured in the PBS documentary Life Stories. In 2007, he co-produced Living with Stroke, a prize-winning film about the invisible world of stroke survivors. Cole is senior editor of the book Faculty Health in Academic Medicine: Physicians, Scientists and the Pressures of Success (Humana, 2009), which explores the impact of the spiritual and economic crises facing academic health centers today. Other collaborative books include: The Brewsters, an interactive, choose-your-own-adventure fictional text in health care ethics (UTHealth, 2011) and, with Nathan Carlin and Ron Carson, Medical Humanities: An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Cole’s work has been featured in the New York Times, National Public Radio, Voice of America, PBS, and at the United Nations. He has served as an advisor to the United Nations NGO Committee on Aging, the Union for Reform Judaism and various editorial and foundation boards. In 2004-2005, he served as a consultant to the President’s Council on Bioethics project on aging and was featured speaker at the AARP/United Nations Briefing Sessions on Aging in February 2009.
His current project is A Country for Old Men, a book exploring the lives, ideas, and identities of contemporary male elders.
- Cole, T., Carlin, N., & Carson, R. (2014). Medical humanities: An introduction. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Forthcoming.
- Cole, T., Williams, F., Pendino, M. A., Spike, J. P., & Buday, R. (2011). The Brewsters. Houston, TX: The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
- Cole, T., Ray, R., & Kastenbaum, R. (Eds.). (2009). Guide to humanistic studies in aging. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Cole, T., Goodrich, T. J., & Gritz, E. (Eds.). (2009). Faculty health in academic medicine: Physicians, scientists, and the pressures of success. Totowa, NJ: Humana Press.
- Carson, R. A., Burns, C., & Cole, T. R. (Eds.). (2003). Practicing the medical humanities: Forms of engagement. Hagerstown, MD: University Publishing Group.
- Cole, T. (Project Director). (2001). On equal footing: A memoir, by Quentin R. Mease. New York, NY: Eakin’s Press.
- Cole, T., Ray, R., & Kastenbaum, R. (Eds.). (1999). Handbook of the humanities and aging (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Co.
- Cole, T. (1997). No color is my kind: The life of Eldrewey Stearns and the integration of Houston, Texas. Austin, TX: The University of Texas Press.
- Cole, T., & Winkler, M. G. (Eds.). (1994). The Oxford book of aging. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
- Cole, T., Achenbaum, W. A., Jakobi, P., & Kastenbaum, R. (Eds.). (1993). Voices and visions of aging: A critical gerontology. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Co.
- Cole, T., Van Tassel, D., & Kastenbaum, R. (Eds.). (1992). Handbook of the Humanities and Aging. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Co.
- Cole, T. (1992). The journey of life: A cultural history of aging. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
- Polisar, D., Cole, T., Wygant, L., & Perdomo, C. (1988). Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?: An annotated bibliography of aging and the humanities. Washington, DC: Gerontological Society of America.
- Cole, T., & Gadow, S. (Eds.). (1986). What does it mean to grow old?: Reflections from the humanities. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
- Cole, T. (Creator and Executive Producer), The Strange Demise of Jim Crow: How Houston Desegregated Its Public Accommodations, 1959-1963. Distributed by California Newsreel, 1997.
- Cole, T. (Creator and Executive Producer), Still Life: The Humanity of Anatomy. A film for medical education and public broadcasting, distributed by Fanlight Productions, 2001.
- Cole, T. (Creator and Senior Editorial Consultant), Life Stories. A PBS sponsored film distributed by New River Media, 2001.
- Cole, T., Co-producer, and Ostwald, S., Executive Producer. Living After Stroke—Conversations with Couples. Distributed by Terra Nova Films, 2006.
- Cole, T., Co-producer, and Ostwald, S., Executive Producer. Stroke: Early Recognition and Treatment. Distributed by Terra Nova Films, 2006.