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Courses offered this fall will be highlighted soon.


1. Elective Courses
2. Medical Humanities in the Hospital
3. Pathways to Discovery
4. Clinical Elective and Independent Study
5. Medical Humanities Interest Group
6. Medical Humanities Student Book Club
7. Medical Resident Writing Group

ELECTIVE COURSES (Open to students from all schools for credit; residents, staff, faculty also welcome)

Introduction to Narrative Medicine
Medicine 170.31A (not offered 2009-10)
Louise Aronson, MD, MFA
Narrative is everywhere in medicine: in patient (his)stories, in the notes we write, in our formal presentations and in conversations with colleagues and families. Traditionally, medical education has provided little training in how best to create and interpret such narratives. This course will use medical fiction, essays from the lay press, great literature, illness narratives, medical autobiographies, stories from practice and, with permission, student writings to introduce participants to the rapidly growing field of Narrative Medicine. The course will include some lecture but largely be conducted as a seminar. Each of the instructors will be responsible for one session but several will participate in every class. The final few sessions can be tailored to students’ interests.

Narrative Medicine: Preparing for Practice in a Diverse Society
Medicine 170.31, 170.33B (Fall 2009)
Christopher Bautista MSIII, Jennifer Stella MSII, Mellody Hayes MSIV, Louise Aronson, MD, MFA
In this course, using short stories from and about underserved/ underheard communities, we will “closely read” narrative approaches to health, illness and medical practice in a diverse society. As important as the systematic approach to reading a chest x-ray, close reading ensures nothing is overlooked. Paying attention to narrative frame, form, time, plot, and desire will increase our ability to accurately understand and interpret the medical literature, chart notes and patients’ stories. Over the course of these seminars, students will develop skills for close reading, professional development, reflective writing, and cultural awareness. The class will include some didactics but will largely be conducted as a seminar.

Brain Balance: Maintaining Human Perspectives in a Sea of Science
Credit pending (Spring)
David Watts, MD
Imaginative literature possesses a remarkable ability to elucidate the intricacies and richness of human relationships, and it does so not by telling us, but by inviting us to experience lives outside of our own. By empathizing with the lives of fictional characters, we come to know the infinite and unique possibilities of what it is to be human. The experience of reading is not unlike “reading” a patient who is relaying symptoms of illness or aspects of personal life. The listening caregiver engages with the patient’s experience, feeling through the imagination what the patient is experiencing. Thus reading stories and poems that explore the interior landscape of human interactions will prepare medical students for the actual relationships they will have with their patients. Imaginative literature will keep medical students more balanced, nurturing the values we all associate with “the art of medicine.” Based upon lectures on the “Art of Medicine” the instructor has given at several prominent medical schools, and taking into consideration the wishes and needs of the current class of medical students at UCSF, this course will combine the reading and discussion of literary works with the sharing of student journals. Discussion of literary pieces will take place in an open-ended, Socratic method, eschewing any forced, preconceived interpretation in favor of a diverse, multi-layered set of opinions to more accurately reflect the life experience. “Seasoned caregivers” will be invited to come to class and give insights into how they themselves integrate science and humanism in the practice of medicine.

Narrative Medicine : Empowering Through Stories
Medicine 170.32 A, B, C (1 unit) or Medicine 170 D (spring)
Louise Aronson, MD, MFA Student contact: Arul Thangavel
The effectiveness and pleasure of clinical practice are enhanced when providers have the skills to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by their patient’s stories. What is it like to grow old? To be ill or disabled, hospitalized or homebound? In this course, students will learn interviewing techniques (both medical and anthropological), visit an older patient in the home and/or hospital, and either write the patient’s story or produce an edited audiorecording. The final products will be a website and possibly an anthology which highlights individual lives from across san francisco. The digital map may be read for information on neighborhoods, ethnic groups, diseases or illness narratives. This work may be done as part of the longitudinal Aging and Palliative Care elective (Med 170.30) or as a stand alone elective and may be repeated for credit.

Narrative Medicine: The Medical Student as Writer
170.31B (1 unit) Winter 2009-10
Louise Aronson, MD MFA, David Watts, MD
The goal of this creative writing workshop will be to help students develop skills as writers of fiction, memoir, and creative non-fiction. While many may choose to write about their training experiences, there are no subject matter restrictions. The primary goals are to improve as writers and to move from ideas toward finished essays and stories. Students will read and workshop each other’s work, read established writers focusing on craft and technique, and do in-class writing exercises to help generate new writing. Previous writing experience not required.

The Healer's Art
(Family and Community Medicine)
171.01. (1.5 units) Wi. Prerequisites: 1st & 2nd year medical students. Lecture 3 hours. Workshop 15 hours.
Rachel Remen MD
Learning to strenghthen your humanity and remain open-hearted can make the difference between professional burnout and a fulfilling life. An opportunity to learn tools for self care, healing loss, finding meaning, strenghthening commitment and becoming a true physician.


Note: many of these experiences are only available to trainees in particular programs and on particular rotations
David Elkin - Medical Student Psychiatry core rotation, SFGH
Shieva Khayambash - Family Medicine inpatient service, SFGH
Elizabeth Murphy - Internal Medicine, MZ and Parn
Ronald Strauss - Internal Medicine/ PRIME program, VAMC
Louise Aronson - Geriatrics/Housecalls clinic


Note: trainees can complete projects in the Medical Humanities through the Health and Society, Global Health and Health Professions Education pathways. Please contact the appropriate Pathway director, Renee Courey the Pathways Coordinator, and Louise Aronson from the MHI for more information.

The Pathways to Discovery Program facilitates motivated learners in developing the knowledge, skills, and experience to contribute to health beyond the care of individual patients. The five Pathways (at left) represent areas of specialization including health research, curriculum and education theory development, policy and advocacy, and other interventions to improve health on a global scale.

The Pathways program is available to all UCSF learners, including students and trainees from all four professional schools, graduate students, residents, and clinical fellows.

General Format of a Pathway:
1. A mentored project designed and executed in collaboration with a UCSF faculty member. A wide variety of potential project topics and formats is available; examples include: traditional biomedical, clinical, or social scientific investigation, the development of a new piece of curriculum, a new method of healthcare delivery in an underserved comunity in the United States or abroad, or an analysis of proposed health care legislation.

2. Curricula designed to prepare learners for independent work and leadership by introducing the field of study and providing skills necessary to execute their project and shape healthcare in their future careers.

3. Creation of a legacy that provides lasting value to the UCSF community and/or to health and health care at large.


Narrative Medicine/Independent Study
Med 198 (units vary; may be repeated)
Louise Aronson MD, MFA; Elizabeth Murphy MD
Combined clinical work at the UCSF Housecalls Practice and the Internal Medicine Service at the Mount Zion hospital and training in narrative medicine. Students will read a core body of literature in the field, write at least one patient narrative, illness narrative or parallel chart, and complete or make significant progress on a narrative (creative non-fiction, fiction, journalism, advocacy journalism) or narrative project related to health, illness, medical education or patient care.

(Anthropology, History & Social Medicine)
198.0 (1-5 units) § Fa, Wi, Sp, SS1, SS2, SS3. Prerequisites: Consent of instructor. Project 3-15 hours. Staff Research in History of Health Sciences, Medical Anthropology or Social Medicine and/or directed reading under supervision of a faculty member with approval of the department chairperson. (department: HISTSOCMED) Contact Prof. Brian Dolan

Pre-medical programs and medical schools around the world are increasingly recognizing the value of providing humanities and social science-based instruction and mentoring that encourages students to explore how experiences of life between health and illness are expressed, rationalized, and given meaning. The student groups include a monthly book club, writing workshops, and electives in medical humanities, as well as support and information about other humanities events at UCSF and beyond.

Contact: Jennifer Stella at Jennifer.Stella@ucsf.edu


- meets monthly or bimonthly
- students only
- the group
    - reads texts with some relevance to medical humanities
    - supports health professions students interested in reading and discussing literature...

Contact: Jennifer Stella at Jennifer.Stella@ucsf.edu


This is a group for residents in all specialties to workshop their creative writing: poetry, prose, essay forms included. The focus is not only learning to improve and broaden our literary skills but also focus on dissemination and publication. Meetings held on monthly basis, please contact for next meeting time/place.

Contact: Rachel Smith (R2 Medicine) Rachel.Smith@ucsf.edu