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New Dell Med Dual-Degree Program Brings Humanities Focus to Medical Education

Jan. 26, 2022

A group of medical students posing in front of an art installation on the Dell Med campus.

AUSTIN, Texas — As part of its groundbreaking Leading EDGE curriculum, Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin will offer its students a new dual-degree master’s program in humanities, health and medicine in collaboration with the university’s College of Liberal Arts.

The humanities-focused dual degree—one of eight now offered by Dell Med—is designed to produce physician leaders who bring humanistic knowledge, skills and frameworks to their work caring for patients, collaborating with other health professionals and addressing challenges and opportunities within the health system.

According to designers of the curriculum—a team led by Phillip Barrish, professor of English and associate director for health and humanities at the University of Texas Humanities Institute—the Master of Humanities, Health and Medicine is founded on the premise that the methods and substance of the humanities and arts have the power to transform health and health care for all by enhancing human connections; deepening capacity for empathy, self-reflection and creativity; and improving understanding of the cultural, historical and social contexts in which health, illness and care occur.

“This dual-degree opportunity reflects growing appreciation that exposure to the humanities in medical education helps physicians in all kinds of ways, including becoming more empathic and supporting their ability to relate to and communicate with patients beyond their disease processes,” said Beth Nelson, M.D., Dell Med’s associate dean of undergraduate medical education and interim chair of medical education. “For those of us in medicine, a connection to the arts and humanities offers a broader perception and potential for improving overall wellness.”

Dell Med students are able to pursue dual degrees during their third year, or Growth Year, which differentiates the school’s curriculum by allowing students to individualize their experience in Innovation, Leadership and Discovery. Dell Med’s dual-degree programs are structured to allow students to earn both degrees simultaneously in approximately four academic years. This new program will officially open to medical students in fall 2022.

“The inherently interdisciplinary nature of the health humanities and the flexibility of the degree program means that medical students will be able to draw on the expertise of faculty from departments across the College of Liberal Arts and beyond,” said Barrish. “Students can choose to develop a concentration in fields such as disability studies, medicine and narrative, the history of medicine, health communication, culture and health, and health equity, among others.”

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