“Now I know how to not repeat history”: Teaching and Learning Through a Pandemic with the Medical Humanities

Kim Adams, Patrick Deer, Trace Jordan, Perri Klass

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    We reflect on our experience co-teaching a medical humanities elective, “Pandemics and Plagues,” which was offered to undergraduates during the Spring 2021 semester, and discuss student reactions to studying epidemic disease from multidisciplinary medical humanities perspectives while living through the world Covid-19 pandemic. The course incorporated basic microbiology and epidemiology into discussions of how epidemics from the Black Death to HIV/AIDS have been portrayed in history, literature, art, music, and journalism. Students self-assessed their learning gains and offered their insights using the SALG (Student Assessment of their Learning Gains), describing how the course enhanced their understanding of the current pandemic. In class discussions and written assignments, students paid particular attention to issues of social justice, political context, and connections between past pandemics and Covid-19. Student responses indicate enhanced understanding of the scientific and medical aspects of epidemics and also increased appreciation of the insights to be gained from the medical humanities. We discuss co-teaching the class during a real-time, twenty-four-hour-news-cycle pandemic, and the ways in which that experience underlines the value of a “critical medical humanities” approach for undergraduates.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)571-585
    Number of pages15
    JournalJournal of Medical Humanities
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 2021


    • Medical humanities
    • Pandemic
    • Student learning gains
    • Undergraduate education

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • Health Policy


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