Medical humanities uses ideas, tools and methods from disciplines such as history, art, philosophy, theology and literature to help create innovative strategies for understanding and improving health and healthcare. Drawing on sources that typically cut across and complement prevailing modes of health-related thinking, the field seeks to explore the social and cultural context surrounding the purposes and challenges of medicine and healthcare. Decisions about whom to treat or when to treat them, how to prevent disease, and how to fund and develop health services cannot be made on the basis of science alone. They remain contentious ethical and political judgements, reflecting economic realities, contested histories, cultural norms, future aspirations and socially-conditioned perceptions of risk. Medical and health humanities brings these judgments to light and enables us to examine them critically.
The relationship between medicine, health and society has long been a subject of study at Oxford. World-leading research centres in the ethics of medicine and neuroscience, and the history of medicine, provide a focus for the humanistic study of medicine and the social determinants of health. The Humanities and Healthcare programme seeks to bring humanities researchers together with researchers in the Medical Sciences Division, alongside health professionals, organisations concerned with health and service users, to address some of the most critical and complex issues within healthcare today. Our initiatives so far range from co-creating national guidance for advancing medical professionalism and exploring what compassion means in an overstretched health service, to strengthening the role of humanities in medical education, engaging critically with the promise of precision medicine and investigating the challenges of vaccine hesitancy.
The academic lead for the Medical Humanities Programme (from 2022) is Professor Erica Charters (History). The programme is supported by coordinator Angeliki Myrillas-Brazeau.
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The Humanities and Healthcare team is funded by Wellcome Trust ISSF and the Higher Education Innovation Fund to strengthen collaboration, research and policy engagement around humanities and healthcare. It will provide an opportunity to explore the benefits, opportunities and barriers to collaboration with colleagues and to identify further support, training and information needs.
We look forward to welcoming colleagues and to building the humanities and healthcare community across the university.
For information about Humanities and Healthcare, please click here.
Humanities and Healthcare team:
Professor Joshua Hordern (Theology and Religion)
Dr Sally Frampton (Humanities and Healthcare Research Fellow)
Image credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY.