Course description

Inevitably, over the course of our lives, most of us develop a health condition that requires medical care. We are also likely to be called on to provide care for others, whether loved ones or, for those in healthcare professions, strangers. How can we best prepare ourselves to be effective partners, whether we are the caregivers or care recipients? Or both at the same time? Engaging with a diverse range of memoirs, creative nonfiction, life writing, and novels from five continents by physicians, patients (including physician-patients), and concerned citizens, this course helps students interrogate what it means to promote healing and well-being in their personal and professional lives. Readings by creative writers, activists, intellectuals, and medical professionals help us think about how we can more effectively address health crises such as COVID-19 and other pandemics, HIV/AIDS, cancer, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and Alzheimers disease, and how we should confront end-of-life decisions and care, including the controversies surrounding physician-assisted dying. Through texts such as Atul Gawandes Being Mortal, Paul Kalanithis When Breath Becomes Air, Anne Fadimans When the Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Nawal El-Saadawis Memoirs of a Woman Doctor, and Yan Liankes Dream of Ding Village, and both historical and contemporary writings on pandemics, we reflect on different ways in which to become a strong advocate for practices and policies that reduce suffering and promote healing.


  • Director of Engineering, Mathematics Consortium Working Group
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