2022

Human Touch: A new humanities curriculum in the UCLA School of Medicine


Dr. Mark Litwin, UCLA FSPH professor of health policy and management, addresses thinking behind educating medical students in the humanities.

Students studying statue

The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA launches a new humanities curriculum to foster critical thinking and insight into the human condition while educating future physicians to care for themselves as well as their patients.

“Earth to Rich. Earth to Rich,” my medical school pal whispered to her lab partner. Although the room reeked of formalin and our classmates had already gathered into noisy groups of four, the dreamy-eyed boy was lost in another time and place. “Where are you?” Sandy asked, her concern growing. “We need to start. Today, we’re dissecting the face.” “In my head — I was playing in a symphony,” Rich sighed, as if waking from a dream. “It was beautiful.” Then, as his bliss ebbed, he turned his gaze to the embalmed cadaver in a cold, metal box, its remnants worn and ragged after months of educating students about the intricacies of the human body. “Okay, now I’m ready,” Rich said. “Where’s the nose?”

This story from my past — truthful, funny, perhaps a bit sad — will likely resonate with many doctors who studied medicine in the 1970s. To my friend, Sandy, a recently retired pediatrician, it is as vivid today as it was when she first witnessed Rich’s brief escape from yet another grueling stint in gross-anatomy lab. Nor has Rich, a gifted trumpet player who before starting medical school had already vied for a spot with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, forgotten his painful choice of medicine over music. Not long ago, I, too, recalled Rich’s plight after speaking with David C. Schaberg, PhD, a scholar of Asian languages and cultures and dean of humanities at UCLA. “I think of physicians — or many of them — as high achievers who proved their abilities in other ways before they became physicians, for example, by brilliantly playing a musical instrument or through other humanistic achievements,” he says. “Among other things, achievements in the arts and the humanities are ways we prove ourselves as young people."

by Dr. Claire Panosian Dunavan

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Faculty Referenced by this Article

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Mark Litwin
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Frederick Zimmerman
Frederick Zimmerman
Health Policy and Management
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James Macinko
James Macinko

Professor of Community Health Sciences & Health Policy and Management, and Associate Dean for Research

Community Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Naomi Zewde
Naomi Zewde
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Health Policy and Management
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Comanor, Bill
William Comanor
Health Policy and Management
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Isomi Miake-Lye
Isomi Miake-Lye
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Thomas Rice
Thomas Rice
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Ron Andersen

Dr. Ron Andersen is the Wasserman Professor Emeritus in the UCLA Departments of Health Policy and Management.

Health Policy and Management
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Michelle Keller
Michelle S. Keller

Dr. Michelle S. Keller is a health services researcher whose research focuses on the use and prescribing of high-risk medications.

Health Policy and Management
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Jose J. Escarce
Health Policy and Management
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Jeanne Miranda
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Aria Fallah
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Michael Galper
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Brennan Spiegel
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Arlene Fink
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Lillian Gelberg
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Leah Vriesman
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Moira Inkelas
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Diana Hilberman
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Julie A. Elginer

EMPH Academic Program Director with expertise in healthcare marketing, finance, and reproductive health policy, teaching in the EMPH, MPH, MHA program

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Ty Robbins
Health Policy and Management
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Michael Ong
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Stephanie L. Taylor

Nationally recognized health services researcher and sociomedical scientist with 25+ years' experience in effectiveness and implementation research.

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Gerald Kominski
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Xi Zhu
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Sangeeta Ahluwalia
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Olivia Jung
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Emmeline Chuang
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Neal Halfon
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Roshan Bastani
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Kenneth Wells
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Srikanth Kadiyala
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Felicia Hodge
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Barbara Berman
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Samuel Sessions
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Dylan Roby
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Deborah Anne Freund
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Risha Gidwani
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Jean Balgrosky
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Susan Ettner
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Nadereh Pourat
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Linda Rosenstock
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Vickie Mays
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Arturo Vargas Bustamante
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Yvonne Flores
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Alice Kuo
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Jack Needleman
Jack Needleman
Health Policy and Management
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Patricia Ganz
Patricia Ganz
Health Policy and Management
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Ron D. Hays
Ron D. Hays

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Aronberg, Sandra
Sandra Aronberg
Health Policy and Management
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Pamela Davidson
Health Policy and Management
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Laura Erskine
Laura Erskine
Health Policy and Management
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Mangione, C
Carol Mangione
Health Policy and Management
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Paul Chung
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Ninez Ponce
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Emily Abel
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Jody Heymann
Epidemiology Health Policy and Management
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William J. McCarthy
Health Policy and Management
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Lori Pelliccioni
Health Policy and Management
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Annette Maxwell
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Z. John Lu
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Paul Fu, Jr.
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Yusuke Tsugawa
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Robert Kaplan
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Burt Cowgill
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Avram Kaplan
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Jonathan Fielding
Health Policy and Management
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Corrina Moucheraud
Health Policy and Management
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Beth Glenn
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Kristen Choi
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Warren Scott Comulada
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Daniel Eisenberg
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Anthony Hunter Schiff
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Jennifer Wortham
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