University of Oxford


Published on by Post Discipline Admin


The use of literature in medicine courses in US medical schools grew out of the broader medical humanities movement of the 1960s. Landmark initiatives include Penn State University’s College of Medicine’s founding of the first department of humanities within any US medical school in 1967, and Columbia University’s launch of its influential narrative medicine program in 2000, which draws heavily on close reading techniques. Literature-based courses are often elective rather than required, resulting in varied assessment methods and different degrees of integration within medical curricula. Course learning aims tend to include personal and professional development, including the cultivation of empathy and self-reflection. Some courses aim to inspire social awareness, such as critical consciousness of oppressive structural determinants of health. 

A recent report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) advocates the integration of literary training in medical education, including by providing advice on course development and implementation.[1]

This collection identifies historic and active graduate medicine courses that draw on novels, plays, short stories, memoirs, and/or poetry to teach aspects of medicine. It is based on a sample of all institutions featured in U.S. News & World Report’s ranked list of the best providers of graduate studies in medicine in 2021.

This data collection forms part of a larger project titled Post-Discipline: Literature, Professionalism, and the Crisis of the Humanities, led by Dr Merve Emre with the assistance of Dr Hayley G. Toth. You can find more information about the project at

Email help us improve the data collection.

[1] AAMC, The Fundamental Role of the Arts and Humanities in Medical Education (Washington DC: AAMC, 2020).

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