Department of Health Humanities and Bioethics

George EngelThe Biopsychosocial (BPS) Model

"The crippling flaw of the [biomedical] model is that it does not include the patient 
and his attributes as a person, a human being. The biomedical model can make provision neither for the person as a whole nor for data of a psychological or social nature."

- G. Engel, Clinical Application of the Biopsychosocial Model, 1981

The Biopsychosocial (BPS) approach to medical education and practice was developed by Dr. George Engel 45 year ago. He proposed an alternative approach that integrates the scientific and objective method of knowing about the patient’s disease with equal attention to the "human and relational" and subjective experiences of patient and families in relation to broader social, cultural, societal and environmental contexts.

The Department’s BPS focus on socio-cultural and societal contexts has guided our work in social justice, equity and inclusion, and our long-standing academic partnership with diversity faculty. 

We continue to apply BPS integration of data-driven science with relationship-centered practices and apply it to patient care, education, and research across URMC to ensure a humanistic, ethical, and inclusive culture.

Our Department

The Department of Health Humanities and Bioethics offers courses, electives, activities and programs that use methodologies and materials from the humanities disciplines to address key issues in healthcare. These disciplines include literature, history, visual arts, philosophy, and music, as well as studies in gender, religion, culture and disabilities. As a branch of philosophy, ethics has its own programs, courses, electives and activities in philosophy, law and clinical ethics integrated with the humanities.

Through these humanities/bioethics-focused programs, the Department reinforces the biopsychosocial approach to patient care, and develops students’ and faculty’s skills, knowledge and attitudes consistent with the LCME/ACGME Core Competencies. Among these skills are ethical and humanistic patient care, mindfulness, interpersonal and communications skills, and professionalism.


Health Humanities and Bioethics integrate perspectives from humanities, arts, and ethics to understand person-centered relationships and social, cultural, moral contexts in healthcare. Through our interprofessional and interdisciplinary collaborations across URMC, we work to improve the well-being of our patients, providers, and communities in a humanistic, ethical and inclusive culture.