Guest speaker Miriam Solomon delves into Medical Humanities
By Mary Margaret Hogan '18 | Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Mary Margaret Hogan '18
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
On Thursday, October 6th, Miriam Solomon of Temple University joined UMass Amherst in the announcement of the new certificate program entitled Medical Humanities, offered under the College of Humanities and Fine Arts. Professor Joseph Levine of the Philosophy Department began the lecture by introducing the program, as he is now acting as the certificate’s advisor.
Medical humanities is the study of health and the practice of healthcare combined with an introspective lens influenced by the humanities. “This certificate program will broaden your educational experience, assist you in your career in medicine, and give you that extra edge to get yourself into medical school,” Levine laughed. He continued on to introduce Miriam Solomon as an appropriate speaker for the occasion, as many of her studies surround the subject of medical humanities. When she took the stage, she noted, “even my Temple University doesn’t have this certificate just yet, so congratulations on making it come to fruition!”
She further explained the concept of medical humanities by adding that the study utilizes investigations under history, philosophy, and the classics to create a more interdisciplinary perspective regarding medicine, disability, illness, and governmental health policies.
“The first concern of any medical practice should be the welfare of the patients,” Solomon began. Yet despite this common goal among doctors, many critiques of medical science remain. “A common misbelief of scientific medicine begins in its oversimplified origins,” she explained. “Some people believe it started with Louis Pasteur’s invention, but this common view is incorrect. There is a recent history of scientific medicine’s beginnings, and its methodology constantly changes over time.”
When studying medical humanities, objectivity is something that needs to be centered in one’s research and studies. This freedom of bias is aided by utilizing interdisciplinary subjects to broaden one’s perspective, though many may still believe that science only has one correct answer. Solomon cited the National Institute of Health’s Consensus Development Conferences, which ran from 1977 to 2013, as a source of subjectivity that diminished practicality in medicine. “When the panel came to agreement on a medical issue, that would hold authority. When people disagree, they don’t convene together in order to come to a general consensus--they go back to work and do more research. Ironing out our differences implies partiality.”
Solomon was a fitting guest to outline the humanistic intricacy that is often ignored in medicinal studies. As Solomon asserted, the only appropriate way to make strides in the medical field is to uphold neutrality and respect the art of medicine, rather than believe in a dichotomy of art and science.
The Medical Humanities certificate is open to all UMass Amherst students, regardless of major, but will surely benefit those interested in health care with the program’s intersectional factors cultural, social-environmental, and political perspectives.