Fourth-Year Electives

Note: Registration for MSIV Electives for the 2024-2025 academic year begins Wednesday, March 27, 2024. Please visit the MS4 Portal to request an enrollment code.

Contemporary Physician Authors (HHH 4003)

Course director: Reverend Nathan Carlin, PhD
Course coordinator: Alejandro Zapata, BA

Scheduled for Block 8 (Nov 18 – Dec 13, 2024) during the 2024-25 academic year, this course will be held virtually.

This fourth-year elective explores works of fiction and nonfiction written by physician-authors, including Oliver Sacks, Danielle Ofri, Atul Gawande, Perri Klass, Abraham Verghese, and others.

Chapters from medical humanities scholars will supplement assigned readings by physician-authors. Students will have opportunities to lead class sessions among their peers.

After taking this course, students will be able to:

  • articulate the significance of the writings of contemporary physician-authors (i.e., describe the reasons why doctors write);
  • analyze key themes in these writings; and
  • critically engage these works in seminar discussions.

Humanistic Elements of Medicine (HHH 4001)

Course director: Keisha Ray, PhD
Course coordinator: Alejandro Zapata, BA, and Angela Gomez, EdD, MBA, MS

For the 2024-25 academic year, the course will be held during Block 6 (Sep 23 – Oct 18, 2024), Block 8 (Nov 18 – Dec 13, 2024), and Block 11 (Feb 10 – Mar 7, 2025). Sessions for all 3 blocks will be in-person.

Initially designed for students enrolled in the Medical Humanities Scholarly Concentration, the course is open to all fourth-year medical students interested in an elective that addresses various topics related to the medical humanities.

Some of the topics presented include, but are not limited to:

  • ethical, philosophical, social, and legal dimensions of health care;
  • perspectives on the doctor-patient relationship; and
  • the spiritual dimensions of health care.

The course is taught as a seminar by faculty members of the McGovern Center. As part of the course, students will prepare a final research project.

Pathographies of Mental Illness (HHH 4002)

Course director: Reverend Nathan Carlin, PhD
Course coordinator: Alejandro Zapata, BA

This course is scheduled for Block 10 (Jan 13 – Feb 7, 2025) for the 2024-25 academic year. All sessions are virtual.

Developed from a blue book elective of the same name, this elective is offered to fourth-year medical students each January and focuses on the meaning of mental illness. Students will study written pathographies of mental illness, such as Sylvia Nasar’s A Beautiful Mind, Lionel Dahmer’s A Father’s Story, and William Styron’s Darkness Visible.

The course is reading intensive but also features film pathographies based on the required texts with background material provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM-5.

Students taking the course will be able to:

  • Articulate the significance of a “memoir approach” to understanding mental illness;
  • Apply theoretical insights from medical humanities to a memoir of mental illness;
  • Identify moral and ethical issues in a particular memoir of mental illness;
  • Describe how writing about mental illness helps sufferers to make meaning of mental illness; and
  • Reflect on how you think that reading pathographies of mental illness will affect your clinical skills.