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New Literature in Health Care Program Emphasizes the Patient’s Perspective


Monthly series seeks to spark discussion about ethical and cultural aspects of medicine

Health care providers use textbook knowledge to help patients every day, but a new program at the University of Missouri will use creative writing to educate providers about a sometimes neglected aspect of treatment. Locally called Literature in Health Care, the first session of the program will take place on Wednesday, Jan. 20, and is designed to help health care providers empathize more fully with patients.

“We’re really good at using facts and knowledge to train our health professionals, but what we are sometimes missing is how we can use the arts and humanities to make us better health care providers,” said George “Brick” Johnstone, PhD, professor of health psychology in the MU School of Health Professions. “This new program shows how we can read various forms of literature to give us a fresh perspective on patients and what issues are important to them.”

Participants will meet once per month for five consecutive months to discuss assigned literature in two-hour sessions. “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” by the late Jean-Dominique Bauby will be one of the reading assignments. The book chronicles Bauby’s account of his recovery after suffering a stroke and paralysis. Twenty-five MU health care professionals have signed up for the sessions, which will be led by Johnstone. The MU program is part of a national expansion of Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care, an award-winning initiative of the Maine Humanities Council.

“We want to foster a rich discussion from a variety of perspectives,” said Deborah Ward, director of the J. Otto Lottes Health Sciences Library at the MU School of Medicine. “The goal of this program is to provide a more human perspective on the health care process.”

This Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care program has been made possible through a partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council and is brought to the University of Missouri by the combined efforts of MU’s J. Otto Lottes Health Sciences Library, School of Medicine, School of Health Professions and the Art in Health Care program at University of Missouri Health Care.
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