Medical humanities and society minor will ‘explore what it means to be human’

Starting in fall 2020, Augustana students will be able to tack on a new medical humanities and society minor. 

According to religion professor Ann Pederson, the creation of the new interdisciplinary minor has been germinating for three to four years. 

Biology professor Jennifer Gubbels and history professor Margaret Preston also worked closely to make this minor a reality. 

The program’s proposal says it will “allow Augustana undergraduates to explore what it means to be human, to become informed about current issues in healthcare and medicine and to examine the complexities of illness, health, medicine and healthcare.”

Pederson said the courses aren’t just for those who will major in pre-med or nursing—the medical humanities and society minor will benefit those who are interested in hospital chaplaincy, sociology and social work, as well. The proposal also includes exercise science, healthcare administration and athletic training as fields of interest. 

Vice President of Academic Affairs Colin Irvine said part of what nudged the university toward this path was what he would describe as “in-reach.”

Irvine said healthcare constituents reached out to Augustana through faculty connections, suggesting the university explore a program that looked at the healthcare field holistically. 

Gubbels said she thinks the program will allow students to receive material in natural science courses and  think about it differently, especially with “how health and sociology, race and gender work together.”

“These [are] things that are so crucial to understanding the health of a whole person or a whole society,” Gubbels said. 

Senior biology major Madigan Moore said she notices more and more that healthcare is about whether professionals know what it means to work with a person who is suffering. 

Moore took Pederson’s Conversations Between Science and Religion course last fall. 

“What I really got out of the class is that [with] anything in medicine, you’re working with people,” Moore said. “I’m kind of sad I’m graduating now that this minor is coming up, because it’s so valuable.”

Irvine said he likes how the program is structured to remove as many scheduling obstacles as possible, similar to the Civitas honors program.

By starting students off in a gateway class, the program ensures that students develop a rapport with one another based on a shared experience. At the end of the program, students will enroll in a capstone class. 

According to Irvine, instructors are better able to understand where students are at and can have expectations about what students are learning about in their majors outside of the program. 

Irvine believes the program could be a differentiator for careers, as well as a way to help students decide the type of pre-professional experience they want. 

Gubbels said Augie is in a good position to create this minor “Because the professors know each other, they can work collaboratively together really well.”

“The professors here are lifelong learners, and we like to learn from each other, so that spirit is really helpful and makes Augustana a good place to build this program,” Gubbels said.


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