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Humanities in Health Sciences and Medicine at Otago


Image: a photo of The Hay Wain by Hieronymous Bosch

This image has been used as the cover for the Humanities Selectives programme since its inception as it seems to encapsulate all facets of human life.

Health Sciences First Year – optional eighth paper

Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) is a foundation year for five professional health sciences programmes: dentistry, medical laboratory science, medicine, pharmacy and physiotherapy.
HSFY students can enrol in an optional eighth paper in Semester Two, selected from an approved list.

The aim of the eighth paper option is to foster critical thinking and analysis, and extend horizons outside of the seven HSFY papers.

Students can choose from a wide range of topics for their optional eighth paper. There are over 20 Humanities papers on offer, covering such topics as Global and Local Cultures, Human Origins and Civilisations, Art: Here and Now, Bodies, Sexualities and Selves, Ethical Issues, Māori Society, Music in World Cultures, Cultural and Social Identities, Twentieth Century World, Understanding Contemporary Media.

See the full list of approved optional eighth papers for HSFY students.

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The Humanities Selectives programme for third year medical students

The Humanities Selectives programme offers third year medical students the opportunity to delve into fields that aren’t normally part of the medical curriculum by taking an elective from a range of offerings supplied by the Division of Humanities.

Medicine can be viewed as both an art and a science, and the Humanities Selectives provide medical students with alternative ways of thinking about patients and the world. These courses shed light on those aspects of human culture, society and history that are not easily understood using traditional health science methods.

Courses offered for third year medical students

Staff in the Division of Humanities welcome the opportunity to teach third year medical students something about their specialist area.
In 2016, this suite of Humanities Selectives included: varieties of history, an engagement with poetry or fiction, healing and death in the ancient world, introductions to Buddhist thought, the Graphic Narrative, Myth in French Film, the Politics of Health, and Modern Irish Drama.

The great majority of medical students enjoy this opportunity, as summarised by the following student comment:
“I loved using my brain in a different way.”

The current objectives of the Humanities Selectives programme

  • To promote an awareness of those dimensions of human experience which are expressed in the humanities
  • To recognise and reflect upon suffering as an important element in the practice of medicine
  • To enable students to reflect on the social context and implications of the practice of medicine
  • To expose students to the interpretative skills which characterise study in the humanities

2017 will mark the 20th year of this programme.

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Corpus – a forum for conversations about medicine and life

Corpus, an online forum for conversations about medicine and life, publishes a wide range of perspectives on health and medical practice, especially reflective or creative work.

Corpus provides exemplars of the kinds of issues and topics covered in the HSFY optional eighth paper and the Humanities Selectives programme.

Visit the Corpus website.