UCI launches new Center for Medical HumanitiesMultidisciplinary hub aims to advance research on health, engage the public
By Valerie Elwell
On October 30, 2018, the University of California, Irvine formally launched its new Center for Medical Humanities, an unprecedented partnership among the School of Humanities, the Claire Trevor School of the Arts and the School of Medicine. Formerly the UCI Medical Humanities Initiative, the UCI Center for Medical Humanities serves as a vibrant space for exploring the meanings of health, healing, and well-being and fortifying a model of health care that is organized around the individual, reflective of cultural identities, and responsive to the needs of community.
The 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein provided the backdrop for the launch event with dramatic readings of the work by Richard Brestoff, professor of drama, who re-enacted scenes both as Dr. Victor Frankenstein and the Monster. Professor of English Jayne Lewis provided insights into the novel and its relationship to medical humanities in the 21st century.
“This new center is a commitment that is rare, not only here, not only in the UC system, but actually in the country. This new Center for Medical Humanities is about bringing together a community of individuals from different perspectives to advance the understanding of health, healing and well-being,” said Douglas Haynes, director of the center, professor of history and vice provost of academic equity, diversity and inclusion.
Haynes announced the center’s first call to action—developing the programming around “Sufferwell,” a year-long series funded by a $225,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Commencing in fall 2019, the series will bring scholars, artists and medical practitioners to campus to explore human suffering in its various forms. Both Haynes and James Kyung-Jin Lee, UCI associate professor of Asian American studies, served as principal investigators of the grant.
Tyrus Miller, dean of the School of Humanities, spoke to what the humanities bring to medicine and what their collaboration may provide to patients. “It’s my belief that we still have much to learn and much still to understand about human being,” said Miller. “It’s for that reason that I welcome the chance to connect with our colleagues in the School of Medicine and the School of the Arts in this common intellectual pursuit and why I’m so thrilled to be inaugurating the center at UCI that is dedicated to that understanding.”
Michael J. Stamos, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine said, “We have gotten away from interacting with the patient on a humanistic level and been focusing on the details [and] on the data. Data does lead to better care, but not without that humanistic touch and approach.”
Stamos announced that the UCI School of Medicine recently received a generous one-million-dollar gift that will fund an endowed chair in medical humanities. The school is seeking a matching gift to formalize this position.
“What UCI is doing, in its current guise, is truly to become a regional hub and leader for rethinking the way in which we live well together,” said Stephen Barker, dean of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts.
To learn more about the UCI Center for Medical Humanities, visit: http://medicalhumanities.uci.edu/