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Elective Courses

Arts & Humanities


School of Medicine - Art in Medicine, Medicine in Art

This elective for Phase I and II students is a reading and discussion seminar that explores the poetry, prose and graphic art of healthcare issues. In addition to weekly meetings at the Health Sciences Library, students spend an afternoon at the Denver Art Museum on “Museum Rounds” to sharpen observational skills. Materials include selected writing from On Doctoring and works of William Carlos Williams.

School of Medicine - The Doctor-Patient Relationship in Literature and the Arts

This elective for Phase I and II students explores the doctor-patient relationship as represented in literature and film providing students with the opportunity:

  • to gain insight into the doctor-patient relationship through the analysis of imaginative works
  • to examine the historical, cultural and social contexts of medicine
  • to encourage discussion of relevant issues and significant experiences
  • to develop observational and interpretive skills essential for clinical competence and professional behavior
  • to consider diverse perspectives on and cultural critiques of western biomedicine

Materials include poetry by William Carlos Williams, John Stone, Rafael Campo and Raymond Carver; short fiction by Susan Mates, Irving Yalom, Richard Selzer, Adam Haslett, Jay Baruch, Anton Chekhov, Leo Tolstoy, and Helena Viramontes; documentary films such as The English Surgeon, Illness As Experience, Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter, and Darius Goes West.

School of Medicine - Reel Psychiatry: Cinematic Representations of Mental Illness

This intensive, two-week elective seminar for Phase IV students explores the long-standing and well-documented relationship between movies and psychiatry. For many non-physicians, fiction and documentary films have provided the main exposure to the personal experiences of patients and professionals grappling with mental illness and to the symptoms and treatments of psychotic or personality disorders. For many physicians, such films have provided ready access to the storehouse of images that dominate the unconscious and to the complex motivations that make up an unforgettable character-patient. Students will have an opportunity:

  • to consider the accuracy of film depictions of psychiatric conditions
  • to identify and analyze how such representations have shaped our personal responses, cultural beliefs and social policies regarding the mentally ill and those who care for them.
  • to engage in discussions of relevant issues and share significant experiences for which course work and clinical practice allow little time.
  • to develop observational and interpretative skills which are essential for clinical competence and professional behavior.
  • to consider diverse perspectives on and cultural critiques of western biomedicine to enable reflection and articulation of their own roles and responsibilities.

This course is organized into four sections: “Breaking Cinematic Ground” which includes the films Snakepit (1947) and Titicut Follies (1969); “The Family and Mental Illness” which includes the films Ordinary People (1980) and Out of the Shadow (2004); “Society, the Individual and Mental Illness” which includes One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Ma Vie En Rose (1999) and The Bridge (2006); and “Relationships and Mental Illness” which includes A Beautiful Mind (2001), Half-Nelson (2004) and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1994). Readings include literary materials, historical and cultural analyses, and selections from psychiatry and film studies.

School of Medicine - HIV/AIDS and American Culture

This intensive, two-week elective seminar for Phase IV students approaches HIV/AIDS as a biomedical, social, political and creative phenomenon. We will examine how epidemics solidify barriers among social groups throughout the history of western culture and investigate the discourse and images of AIDS in journalistic writing, autobiography, fiction, poetry, film, television, and photography. Students will have an opportunity:

  • to gain insight into the doctor-patient relationship through the analysis of selected films, literary materials, and biomedical discourse.
  • to examine the historical, cultural, and social contexts of epidemic in western culture.
  • to engage in discussions of relevant issues and share significant experiences for which course work and clinical practice allow little time.
  • to develop observational and interpretative skills which are essential for clinical competence and professional behavior.
  • to consider diverse perspectives on and cultural critiques of western biomedicine to enable reflection and articulation of their own roles and responsibilities.

Materials include examples of plague histories and chronicles throughout western culture; cultural analyses such as Sontag’s AIDS and Its Metaphors; physicians’ narratives such as Zugar’s Strong Shadows and Campo’s The Poetry of Healing; and films such as And the Band Played On, Philadelphia, The Smith Family, and Common Threads: Stories From the Quilt.

School of Medicine - Imagining the Other: A Seminar in Creativity

This elective for Phase I and II students blends creative writing and the visual arts to provide students with an opportunity:

  • to imagine the life of others
  • to reflect upon different viewpoints and experiences from their own
  • to focus on the experiences of being a student and a physician

Each class session has a different topic, and students have a choice of different written or visual representations assignments. Part of the class is devoted to discussing readings, writings, and sharing projects.

School of Pharmacy - Film and Healthcare

This elective is designed to encourage pharmacy students to reflect upon the humanistic issues associated with health, disease and treatment through the lenses of film and literature. It is anticipated that the course will promote an understanding of how the representation of a situation can influence the perception of disease and treatment and, in so doing, enhance a student's ability to empathize and communicate more effectively with individual patients and the general public. It will provide students with an opportunity:

  • to demonstrate the ability to reflect upon one’s own and others’ values and beliefs
  • to discuss how the elements of film influence perceptions of health, disease, and treatment
  • to describe how different media and approaches influence effective communication.

    The Materials include films such as Miss Evers’ Boys, The Constant Gardener, Requiem for a Dream, Super Size Me, Iris and Wit; literary works such as David Sheff’s “My Addicted Son,” Irving Yalom’s “Fat Lady,” Sue Miller’s “Appropriate Affect,” and Anatole Broyard’s “Doctor, Talk to Me.”