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Program Description

The "Medical Humanities" is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry into medical education and healthcare. It brings together the experience and ideas of a range of disciplines, including medicine, humanities, social sciences, and arts, as well as the valuable perspectives of patients. Medical humanities scholars provide insight into the socio-cultural, philosophical, historical, visual, literary, religious, and bioethical dimensions of medical experiences today in order to cultivate more humane, ethical and self-reflective practices in medicine.

The Medical Humanities Program is committed to serving the university community by organizing events and initiatives, cultivating a network of people and programs, and fostering multi-disciplinary collaborations, scholarship, and teaching by promoting the rich resources and activities in the medical humanities at the University of Southern California.

Medical Humanities Program Director

Atia Sattar is Provost's Postdoctoral Scholar in the Humanities in the Department of Comparative Literature. Her work explores the cultural, aesthetic, and ethical dimensions of medical science. Her current book project examines the development of medicine as a profession in nineteenth-century Europe, focusing on how doctors' performed and articulated their work in newly specialized scientific spaces. She has also published articles on hypnotism, laboratory notebooks, and cochlear implants. Atia serves on the advisory board for USC's Visual Studies Research Institute. She has taught courses on aesthetics and technology in the department of comparative literature and has guest taught in the Narrative Medicine Selective at Keck School of Medicine of USC.

"Medicine and the Image: The Visible Human"
Fall 2014 Conference and Public Gallery Exhibit

From the anatomical drawings of Vesalius to contemporary MRI and CT scans, images create and popularize medical knowledge as well as influence diagnosis and treatment. This one-day conference will explore how the human body and its experiences of illness are imagined and made visible in medical research, practice, and education. How does representation, both visual and literary, construct and complicate facts about a medically knowable body? How does it also change our individual and societal perceptions of illness, disease, and health? In what ways do technological advances in imaging techniques, including virtual reality simulations, influence medical practices? How can the analysis and creation of art enrich medical education?

The conference aims to facilitate an interdisciplinary conversation by bringing together scholars from a variety of fields including Art, History, Literature, Communications, Anthropology, Medical Illustration, and Medicine. Events for the day will include research presentations on the relationship between medicine and images; a career roundtable for students interested in the health humanities; a keynote lecture on the use of entertainment applications at the intersection of behavioral science, medicine and public health; and a public gallery exhibit of medical images.

Keynote Speaker: Marientina Gotsis, Director & Co-Founder, USC Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center; Research Assistant Professor, Interactive Media & Games Division, USC School of Cinematic Arts

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 | 8:30 AM - 7:00 PM
Doheny Memorial Library, Room 240


Public Gallery Exhibit
Monday, November 3 - Friday, November 7, 2014
Von KleinSmid Center Courtyard

Organizing Sponsor: USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics

Co-sponsors: USC Office of the Provost, Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Dornsife Science and Health Program, Center for Feminist Research, Department of Comparative Literature, Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture Doctoral Program, Visual Studies Research Institute, and Keck School of Medicine’s Program in Medical Humanities, Arts, and Ethics

Vision & Voices—The Medical Humanities, Arts, and Ethics Event Series

ZYGO Student Lunchtime Series on Ethics in Medicine

Photo Credit:


ZYGO Series: QUARANTINE: Balancing Human Rights with Medical Best Interests
Friday, January 23, 2015

ZYGO Series: MEDICINE IN THE MEDIA: Ethical Obligations to Viewers
Friday, February 20, 2015

Vision & Voices: MERCY KILLERS, A Play by Mike Milligan
Tuesday, April 2, 2015

ZYGO Series: MERCY KILLERS by Michael Milligan - A One-Man Play and Discussion on Healthcare in America
Friday, April 3, 2015


Vision & Voices: Danielle Ofri
“The Amygdala and the Stethoscope: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine”
Monday, September 22, 2014

ZYGO Series: Hobby Lobby: The Ethics of Healthcare between Corporation, Church and State
Friday, October 3, 2014

ZYGO Series: Pharmaceutical Access: Global Drug Management and Underserved Populations
Friday, October 24, 2014

"Medicine and the Image: The Visible Human"
Conference and Public Gallery Exhibit
Wednesday, November 5, 2014

ZYGO Series: Doctors vs. Parents: Decision-making in Pediatrics
Friday, November 21, 2014

"The world is chaotic, disorganized, and vexing, and medicine is nowhere spared that reality. To complicate matters, we in medicine are also only human ourselves. We are distractible, weak, and given to our own concerns. Yet still, to live as a doctor is to live so that one's life is bound up in others' and in science and in the messy, complicated connection between the two. It is to live a life of responsibility."

Atul Gawande, Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance

Medical Humanities Programs

Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Medical Humanities & Bioethics Program

Penn State College of Medicine
Department of Humanities

Columbia University Medical Center
Program in Narrative Medicine

Hiram College 
Center for Literature and Medicine

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Medical Humanities and Health Studies

University of California, Irvine
Medical Humanities Initiative

Drew University
Medical Humanities Program

University of California, San Francisco
UCSF Medical Humanities