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Nebraska, Iowa medical schools include humanities courses

June 3, 2019
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Jared Noetzel practices the piano Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Lincoln, Neb. Noetzel said he plays music to help deal with the stress of being a medical student. (Ryan Soderlin/The World-Herald via AP)
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Jared Noetzel practices the piano Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Lincoln, Neb. Noetzel said he plays music to help deal with the stress of being a medical student. (Ryan Soderlin/The World-Herald via AP)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Universities in Nebraska and Iowa are seeing an uptick in humanities courses in some medical schools, signaling a growing recognition of the importance of pairing the sciences and arts in the medical field.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha got the green light last month to offer a major in medical humanities, offering art, philosophy, ethics, religious studies, and the history of medicine, Omaha World-Herald reported.

Creighton University also just created a department of medical humanities in its school of medicine. University of Nebraska-Lincoln plans to a medical humanities program, which could eventually lead to a major. And the University of Iowa College of Medicine also has a program in bioethics and humanities that offers elective courses in creative writing and encourages students to do written reflections on clinical experiences.

The incorporation of humanities into medical learning encourages students to think more broadly about the world around them.

“We think this is critical in medical education, where students so often encounter elements of the human condition like suffering, pain and death,” said Nicole Piemonte, a faculty member in the Creighton School of Medicine’s department of medical humanities.

“Learning through the humanities helps you listen to other people,” said Beth Culross, a University of Nebraska Medical Center nursing faculty member and head of a campus faculty group for medical humanities.

A 2017 National Academy of Medicine article said more than half of American physicians experience burnout. “Artful diversions” can help prevent that, said Steven Langan, the director of medical humanities at UNO, who led a writing group for physicians for more than 10 years.

“I started to see that art could have the same effect that writing was having on people,” said Langan.

Jared Noetzel, a psychology student at UNL, has minors in medical humanities and piano.

“It’s just a nice outlet for me,” he said.

Langan said he hopes his program can hire a research director to track the effectiveness of the humanities in medicine.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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