Historically Black Howard University and Georgetown University are collaborating to establish a center for medical humanities. The Georgetown-Howard Center for Medical Humanities and Health Justice will focus on reducing health disparities in Washington by leveraging methods of critical inquiry at the heart of the humanities. The center is being funded by a $3 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Medical humanities is an interdisciplinary field that recenters health in its broader social, cultural, and historical context. Bridging the clinic and the archive, it uses humanities and social sciences methods to explore, analyze, and critique the contexts of illness and health. Disciplines represented include history, literary studies, philosophy, bioethics, cultural studies, religion, psychology, medical anthropology, and the visual and performing arts.
“These approaches play a frontline role in contextualizing healthcare, shaping health policy and communication, resource allocation, dismantling racism and health disparities, caring for vulnerable communities, understanding the experience of illness and suffering, providing a source of comfort, interpreting and making meaning from crisis, engaging with uncertainty, and envisioning alternatives,” says Lakshmi Krishnan, an assistant professor at the School of Medicine at Georgetown University and co-leader of the new center.
“In every way, the center will embrace the public aspect of public humanities and situate itself at the intersection of medical and health humanities to affirm its commitment to public health,” says Dana A. Williams, co-leader of the project and a professor of African American literature and dean of the Graduate School at Howard University. “It will serve as a research and educational hub convening community partners, academic faculty, and undergraduate, graduate and professional students.”
Dr. Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Grambling State University in Louisiana and a master’s degree and Ph.D. both in African American literature from Howard University.