Faculty awarded national grant to develop innovative coursework in Medical Humanities | Earlham College Skip to Content

Faculty awarded national grant to develop innovative coursework in Medical Humanities

April 04, 2017

Faculty at Earlham College have secured new funding to strengthen a signature program for students pursuing medical school, allied health fields or related courses of study.

A grant proposal by Vince Punzo, professor of psychology, and Mike Deibel, professor of chemistry, has been selected for nearly $100,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to further develop the College’s Medical Humanities Integrative Pathway. The grant will support the development of coursework in the humanities and social sciences, professional development for faculty, and collaboration with faculty from other institutions with Medical Humanities programs.

“This is a collaborative, interdisciplinary project that will greatly benefit Earlham students with a range of interests and from a diversity of majors,” Punzo says. “There is a great need for health care practitioners who are grounded in humanistic perspectives and who realize the fundamental importance of treating those suffering from physical and psychological afflictions with care, compassion, and dignity.”

The Medical Humanities Integrative Pathways will offer coursework that focuses on the conceptual, cultural, and existential realities of illness, suffering, healing, finitude, mortality, care and empathy. Through service learning, internships and research, this pathway allows students to make direct connections between academic interests and possible career paths.

“My interest in developing this grant proposal stemmed from my teaching and writing in bioethics as well as my experiences as a hospice volunteer over the last several years,” Punzo says. “It became clear to me that while curing diseases may be a scientific endeavor, the healing of persons requires the ability to encounter the ill, the dying, and the vulnerable with sensitivity, understanding, and an empathic sensibility.”

This successful grant application is the result of a collaboration between Earlham’s Center for Global health and faculty from three academic divisions, including the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. The pathway is among dozens of new academic offerings emerging from a major College initiative called EPIC that combines interdisciplinary education, off-campus study, immersive experiences and enhanced advising for students.

"From its inception, one of the stated goals of the Center for Global Health was to foster students and graduates who pursue their passion for Health with science excellence, cultural competence and strong sense of service and see themselves as change agents in their local community and in the world,” Deibel says. “We see Medical Humanities as one crucial pathway to helping us achieve this outcome.   Combined with the strength of our Health Sciences, we believe this will help our students thrive in the holistic admissions processes of top health professions schools and become outstanding health care providers."

Earlham’s proposal is one of 208 humanities projects receiving funding nationwide. These grants include programs that support international collaboration and engage students in interdisciplinary courses.

"The Center for Global Health is focused not on the quantity of students who go on to careers in health, but in trying to help students to become the kind of excellent health care providers who are sought after due to their compassion, empathy and patient-centered practices,” Deibel says. “In keeping with the Association of American Medical College’s core competencies, we seek to produce students who are service oriented and culturally competent with a strong sense of ethical responsibility.  

“We believe the Medical Humanities program is the embodiment of these attributes and will provide a framework for our students to develop these competencies and demonstrate them to the health profession.”

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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. 

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.

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