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Ethics and Law in Medicine | Medical Humanities Seminars | Summary of Required Courses | Residency Teaching | Electives


Caring for a patient is a professional and scientific practice; it is also a personal and profoundly human relationship for both the patient and the physician.

In the biopsychosocial tradition of healthcare education at Rochester, Medical Humanities and Bioethics teaching is directed at developing knowledge and skills that can be applied in clinical settings. We focus on three interrelated perspectives throughout the curriculum: the personal, the professional, and the practice. Students reflect on their personal values and beliefs, recognize and critique conflicting perspectives as individuals, as healthcare professionals, as team members, and discuss the implications of these perspectives on the care of patients.

The Division offers approximately 30 different Medical Humanities Seminars each year; all students are required to take at least one eight-week seminar in each of their first two years.  Students select from an array of diverse electives in the history of medicine, literature and medicine, fine arts, clinical ethics, palliative care, and health care law in both the pre-clinical and clinical years. Residents and fellows can also arrange with Division faculty to take these electives. Extracurricular educational activities of the Division include Medical Reader's Theatre presentations for faculty, residents and students, monthly Medical Humanities Noon Conferences, monthly Interdisciplinary Clinical Ethics Noon Conferences, an Annual Lecture, and the G.W. Corner Society for the History of Medicine for the URMC and general Rochester communities. The Division also offers enrichment programs, called Pathways, in Medical Humanities and Bioethics.

Bioethics and Law

The Bioethics and the Law Theme:  An introduction for medical students by Margie Hodges Shaw, JD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Law and Bioethics, Division of Medical Humanities & Bioethics

Bioethics and Law is a major theme integrated throughout the four-year medical school curriculum.  To make good/sound clinical judgments, students need to learn a set of skills and knowledge to navigate an appropriate decision-making process when moral conflicts arise. Students apply skills in self-reflection to identify their own values, emotions, perceptions and motivations, and acknowledge/understand diverse values and beliefs of others, including patients and families and healthcare colleagues. Using methods from the humanities, the Bioethics and Law theme material promotes acquisition or expansion of knowledge and skills relevant to effective clinical practice and guides personal and professional development. Students learn to apply the principles of bioethics to common ethical dilemmas explored through the use of clinical cases, narrative, fiction, and film.  

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Medical Humanities Seminars

In the integrated Double Helix curriculum, as part of the first-year program, students are required to take one Medical Humanities Seminar, and are welcome to take a second. Students in their second year are similarly required to take one seminar, but are encouraged to take another. Each seminar meets weekly for 8 weeks. The seminars are taught by clinical and academic faculty within the medical school, and in collaboration with faculty from departments of History, Philosophy, Anthropology, Visual and Cultural Studies, and English Literature in the College.

Each year, the Division offers seminars from classical humanities disciplines (history, philosophy, comparative religion, literature) and the social sciences (cultural anthropology, sociology, political theory and public policy). The seminars contextualize medicine as a profoundly human enterprise, and invite students to consider what physicians are, and what they do in a broad social, cultural, political, and intellectual context. The seminars provide a forum in which students can reflect and shape their own evolving understanding and experiences of the practice and art of medicine.

For more information on any of the Medical Humanities seminars, contact Stephanie Brown Clark, course director.

Medical Humanities Seminars 2018-2019

Seminars for First-Year Students

Seminars for Second-Year Students

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Required Courses

First Year

  • Medical Humanities Seminars: each student takes one (required) or two (optional) eight-week seminars, two hours each week (16 hours required, 32 hours optional)
  • Ethics and Law in Medicine: theme, taught in the integrated courses of the curriculum (approximately 15 hours)

Second Year

  • Medical Humanities Seminars: each student takes one (required) or two (optional) eight- week seminar, two hours per week (16 hours required, 32 hours optional)
  • Ethics and Law in Medicine: theme, taught in the integrated courses of the curriculum (approximately 20 hours)

Third Year

Medicine clerkship (six rotations) Clinical Ethics 1 hour
Pediatrics clerkship (six rotations) Informed Consent and Medical Ethics 1 1/2 hours
Literature 1 1/2 hours
Obstetrics clerkship (six rotations) Informed consent 1 hour

Fourth Year

Intensive Case Study Block Varying content integrated through short and long case study exercises 10-20 hours
Informed Consent Selective (offered twice)   2 hours

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Residency Teaching

Faculty in the Division are involved in residency training, including:

  • ICU clinical ethics teaching rounds: Monthly one-hour sessions in PICU, NICU, MICU, SICU, and Hem/Onc BMTU
  • Clinical Ethics skills block for Primary Care Medicine 2nd year residents (4 hours)
    • PICU: Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
    • NICU: Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
    • MICU: Medical Intensive Care Unit
    • SICU: Surgical Intensive Care Unit
    • BTMU: Bone Marrow Transplant Unit

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Throughout the double helix curriculum are opportunities for students to pursue areas of interest. The Division offers a number of electives in humanities and in bioethics, including:

  • Clinical Ethics
  • Clinical Ethics Research
  • Independent Research/Creative Project in Medical Humanities

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