Preprofessional students explore humanistic medicine

Author: Gene Stowe

Pathos Class

Through a one-credit elective course called “Pathos,” preprofessional students are exploring the practice of person-centered healthcare. After completing selected readings on particular healthcare topics, students listen and interact with a guest speaker who is typically a physician with expertise on the discussion topic.

Students receive training through the national “Being With” program in which they learn how to interact with patients. The training prepares them for the service-learning component of the course in which students are required to volunteer at a healthcare facility such as Holy Cross House or Our Lady of Peace Hospital at least twice, although most of the students volunteer quite a bit more. All of the students are encouraged to continue visiting the patients and developing a personal relationship with them in the health care context.

A few of the questions the students discussed in the fall were, “Can you teach compassion?”, “Is medicine a spiritual practice?”, and “What does the doctor-patient bond really mean?” The class meets for five sessions, and the discussions follow a logical progression through topics related to the experience of illness and healing, the influence of patient stories on diagnosis and therapeutic response, medical training and the doctor/patient relationship. To conclude the formal part of their experience each of the students write a five-page final paper integrating their personal experience with the class discussions.

Registration is open to twenty-five students, and departmental permission is required. Questions concerning the course should be directed to the course coordinator, Brennan Bollman, a junior biology major. Freshmen or sophomores who are interested in a leadership role in the Pathos Project should also contact Brennan Bollman.