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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Taft Launches Medical Humanities Lecture Series

In 1998, Michael Schiavo petitioned the Sixth Circuit Court of Florida for permission to disconnect the feeding tube of his wife, Terri Schiavo, thus ending her five-year vegetative state. Over the next seven years, the Schiavo case attracted international attention, setting off fierce debates in the medical, legal, and religious communities.

"Because it brings the ethics of care to the forefront of cultural consciousness, Schiavo is one of a growing number of high-profile medical cases that might benefit from the wisdom of the medical humanities," notes Dean Valerie Hardcastle (Philosophy) of the College of Arts and Sciences.

"As medical treatments become more sophisticated, doctors and lawyers confront complex ethical questions. Scholars working in the medical humanities aim to weigh in on these crucial medical and scientific matters," she explains.

The Taft Research Center is proud to launch a new spring lecture series on the medical humanities devoted to these and other questions, including "the sociocultural aspects of health and disease and their meanings, as well as biological factors," remarks Professor Wendy Kline (History), who lectures on April 23.

The series begins Friday, April 16 at 2:00 pm with "A Critical Evaluation of Culture, Race, and Cultural Competence in Health Care" by Professor Jennifer Malat (Sociology) and features three subsequent Friday afternoon lectures (see schedule below).

The lecture series is sponsored by the Taft Center Medical Humanities Research Group, an affiliation of scholars of anthropology, English, history, philosophy, and sociology who wish to examine the import of the humanities disciplines for medical research and practice. Dean Hardcastle observes that the medical humanities are necessarily cross-disciplinary because "they grapple with real-world questions. If you isolate them, you don’t get a complete answer."

The Taft Center Medical Humanities Research Group invites lecturers, arranges colloquia, writes and submits grants to the NEH and NIH, and aims to design curricula for an interdisciplinary and cross-college program in medical humanities at the University of Cincinnati.

Dean Hardcastle is developing a certificate program for undergraduates interested in health professions that will provide tools to "help understand the complex intellectual issues associated with practicing medicine today."

The general public as well as humanities scholars and medical and scientific practitioners are encouraged to attend the lecture series. As Dean Hardcastle notes, "at some point any of us might need to consider a do-not-resuscitate form or discuss medical issues with a person of a religious or educational background different than his or her own."

Whether the issue is end-of-life care, culturally-specific meanings of health and disease, or gender bias in scientific protocols, "medical humanities touch everybody’s lives."

- Suzanne Warren, University of Cincinnati

Medical Humanities Lecture Series Schedule
Friday afternoons 2:00–3:00 pm

April 16, 2010
Jennifer Malat, Associate Professor, Sociology
A Critical Evaluation of Culture, Race, and Cultural Competence in Health Care

April 23, 2010
Wendy Kline, Associate Professor, History
Childbirth Made Difficult: Raising Consciousness on the Delivery Table

April 30, 2010
Jeff Jacobson, Assistant Professor, Anthropology and Family Medicine
Carried Away: Sociocultural Dimensions of Dissocia­tive Distress in Two Central American Communities

May 7, 2010
Lisa Meloncon, Assistant Professor, English and Comparative Literature
Articulating Episteme: Vernacular Medical Texts in Early Modern England


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