Medical Humanities Initiative

About the Medical Humanities at Georgetown

The Georgetown Medical Humanities Program, a cross-campus collaboration among Georgetown College, Georgetown Humanities Initiative, and Georgetown University Medical Center, is launching an undergraduate minor in Medical Humanities, Culture, and Society starting in Fall 2021. The Medical Humanities Program is directed by joint Medical Center/College faculty member Lakshmi Krishnan (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Affiliate Joint Faculty in English). 

The minor comes at an opportune time for Georgetown and our greater DC community and brings together traditional strengths of our institution: health education and research and scholarship and teaching in the humanities and social sciences. Medical Humanities is a growing field with diverse constituent disciplines (humanities, social sciences, and visual and performing arts) and of increasing interest to both liberal arts and health campuses. The need for these perspectives has become more apparent than ever during our current global COVID-19 crisis.

Capitalizing on the success of the Georgetown Medical Humanities Initiative (launched in 2019), which offers interdisciplinary courses open to undergraduates, nursing/health studies, and medical students, an event series, (including a recent public event on Angels in America and the HIV pandemic in collaboration with the Lab for Global Performance and Politics), and a research mentorship and fellowship program, our program strives to re-center health and healing in a broader social, cultural, and historical context. This work aligns with Georgetown University’s core educational mission and Jesuit values of cura personalishealth practitioners cannot treat “the whole patient” without recognizing and valuing their humanity in its many facets. Furthermore, a unique strength of our program is its collaborative breadth: it engages faculty and students across the medical center and arts and sciences campus, which opens up opportunities for creative, transdisciplinary teaching, research, and collaboration. 

Students who study the humanities alongside the sciences develop critical and analytical skills, research expertise, intellectual and cultural community, and balance in their academic careers. We expect the minor to be of interest to a range of students across the College, SFS, and NHS, including those interested in the health professions, graduate and medical students, and humanities and social-sciences oriented students drawn to interdisciplinary areas such as narrative medicine, history of medicine, science and technology studies, public health, medical anthropology, and ethics. 

The minor will be open without application to students across the College, NHS, and SFS. It will also be open to graduate and medical student auditors.

Meet the Director: Lakshmi Krishnan, MD, PhD

Portrait of Lakshmi Krishnan
Portrait of Lakshmi Krishnan

Lakshmi Krishnan, MD, PhD, is a historian of medicine, medical humanities scholar, physician, and Faculty Director of the Georgetown Medical Humanities Initiative. A first-generation immigrant born in Bombay, India, she also grew up in the United Kingdom before settling in the States. Her research focuses on diagnosis and clinical reasoning. She is writing a cultural and intellectual history of diagnosis and detective practices—The Doctor and the Detective: A Cultural History of Diagnosis (forthcoming, Johns Hopkins University Press). 

More broadly, she is engaged with the relationship between medicine and the humanities writ large. Areas of interest include health equity and the history of health disparities, intellectual history of medicine, 19th century and early 20th century literature and medicine, and cultural responses to illness. This interdisciplinary work seeks to recenter the experiences of marginalized communities, broaden the narrative canon, and promote health equity.

Dr. Krishnan earned her MD from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and her DPhil (PhD.) in English Literature from the University of Oxford, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She completed her Internal Medicine residency at Duke, where she was a Faculty Affiliate at the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in General Internal Medicine and History of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is board certified in Internal Medicine and a member of the American College of Physicians, and practices hospital medicine. Her work appears or is forthcoming in The LancetAnnals of Internal MedicineLiterature and MedicineModern Language Review, Victorian Literature and Culture, and Victorian Poetry, and has won awards from the Academy of Health Communication and National Endowment for Humanities.

Core Faculty & Steering Committee

  • Alfred Acres—Art & Art History
  • Carol Benedict—SFS & History (History of Medicine)
  • Bernard Cook—Film & Media Studies, American Studies, Associate Dean–Georgetown College
  • Heidi Hamilton—Linguistics
  • Toshihiro Higuchi—History, SFS, Regional and Comparative Studies
  • LaMonda Horton-Stallings—African American Studies
  • John Kraemer—Health Systems Administration
  • Jan LaRocque—Human Science
  • Maggie Little—Philosophy/Ethics Lab
  • Emily Mendenhall—Anthropology, STIA, SFS
  • Natsu Onoda Power—Performing Arts/Program in Theatre and Performance Studies
  • Ricardo Ortíz—English (Chair), US Latinx Literature & Culture

  • Alfred Acres—Chair of Art & Art History
  • Mary Beth Connell—Associate Dean & Director of Pre-Health Advising
  • Bernard Cook—Associate Dean & Founding Director of Film & Media Studies Program
  • Theodora Danylevich—Women’s & Gender Studies
  • Aminatta Forna—Director and Lannan Foundation Chair of Poetics for the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice
  • Mary Furlong—Associate Dean for Curriculum and Director of Medical Education, Georgetown School of Medicine
  • Katelynn Getchell—School of Medicine
  • James Giordano—Chief of Neuroethics, Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics, Georgetown School of Medicine
  • Derek Goldman—Theater & Performance Studies, Co-Director Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics
  • Hunter Groninger—Director of Palliative Care, Georgetown School of Medicine & MedStar Health
  • LaMonda Horton-Stallings—Chair and Professor of African American Studies
  • Tad Howard—Associate Dean
  • Faith Kean—Student, COL’22
  • Christopher King—Chair of Health Systems Administration, Nursing and Health Studies
  • Lakshmi Krishnan—Medicine & English, Georgetown Humanities Initiative, Faculty Director, Georgetown Medical Humanities Initiative
  • Julia Langley—Faculty Director of Arts and Humanities Program, Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Sue Lorenson—Vice Dean for Undergraduate Education
  • Daniel Marchalik—Department of Urology, Director of Physician Wellbeing, Director of Literature & Medicine Track, Georgetown School of Medicine & MedStar Health, Associate Director–Medical Humanities Initiative
  • Timothy Newfield—History & Biology
  • Sylvia Önder—Anthropology, Eastern & Mediterranean Languages
  • Victoria Pedrick—Classics
  • Nicoletta Pireddu—Italian, Comparative Literature, Inaugural Director of the Georgetown Humanities Initiative
  • Michael Pottash—Palliative Care & Clinical Ethics, Georgetown School of Medicine & MedStar Health
  • Toni-Lee Sangastiano—Studio Art and Digital Media, Art & Art History
  • Dustyn Wright—Director of Student Learning, Georgetown School of Medicine

Minor Requirements

The interdisciplinary minor in Medical Humanities, Culture, and Society will require six total courses (three core courses and three electives), and is designed to provide students with a firm foundation in the field. Up to 3 credits can be fulfilled by 1-credit courses. Students will be able to use courses from other programs and departments to satisfy the minor’s elective requirements; this list grows each semester, and we welcome new submissions. 

Core Courses

  • Introduction to Medical Humanities (MHUM 101)
  • Methods in Medical Humanities (MHUM 350)
  • Senior Capstone Seminar in Medical Humanities (MHUM 401)

Elective Courses

Students will be able to use courses from other programs and departments to satisfy the minor’s elective requirements; this list grows each semester, and we will continue to add to it. View a representative sample under the Course Offerings section below.

Course Offerings

Upcoming Events

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The Georgetown Medical Humanities is supported by a Humanities Connections Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.