HSC 130-10 Spring 2019

Many students entering the health sciences imagine that disease, illness and sickness are best understood through science; that the Health Sciences are simply the application of more traditional sciences like Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. In this class we will explore how that belief fails to capture most of human health.
Human experiences of illness, suffering, death, and of good health are formed through culture and a complex process of making meaning. We will explore how individuals use culture to make meaning out of their health, their illnesses, their bodies to understand themselves and the world around them.  How people understand these concepts will influence the way they view the practice of medicine, nursing, public health and many other fields. This class will be an opportunity to examine your own views of health and to understand how those views might affect the way you will work in the field.
This course also will give you an introduction to literature, art, film, music and drama that deals with health. These resources can help you in your career to grapple with some of the more challenging experiences you may have providing health care in the future. You should imagine this course as providing you the tools you need for your own care and support as a future member of the greater Health Sciences communities.
Finally, this course will help you to be more empathetic and to understand the different perspectives of the people you will be treating and working with in your career.

Contact Information

Instructor: Jason A. Smith

Office Location: SF Building, 5th Floor

Telephone Number: 510-885-3885

Email and Contacting Me

Course Information

Course Name and Units: HSC 130 Health Humanities, 3 units

Classroom Location: MI3083



HSC 130 is an introduction to the role of the humanities in health. Exploration of the importance of humanities in developing empathy, observation, and self-reflection skills necessary in health care. Human experience of illness will be explored

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Characterize human experience of illness, health, and healing individually, socially, and politically through the humanities.
  2. Demonstrate empathy towards others’ experience of illness.
  3. Discuss one’s own values and beliefs in the context of health humanities.
  4. Summarize the role of humanities in defining health and illness and its implications for the relationship between patients and providers.
  5. Show appreciation for the humanities using their intellect, imagination, sensibility, and sensitivity
  6. Develop their affective and cognitive faculties through studying great works reflecting the rich diversity of human imagination and/or inquiry
  7. Engage in critical self-reflection relating themes in the humanities to the students’ own lives
  8. Discuss how changes in the environment, the Anthropocene, and issues related to climate change are explored in the humanities in relation to human health.

Kafka, F., & Corngold, S. (2013). The Metamorphosis (Modern Library Paperback Edition. ed.). New York: Modern Library. ("Kafka")

Lorde, Audra. The Cancer Journals. ("Lorde")

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. 1st ed. Oprah's Book Club. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. ("McCarthy")

Thomas Cole et al., Medical Humanities: An Introduction. ("Cole")

Wojnarowicz, David. Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration. 1991 ("Wojnarowicz")

Other readings available on Blackboard.

The following are important course requirements and due dates. The full course calendar is available on Blackboard.

Class Project

Identify your community 02/21/19

Community Analysis 03/21/19

Summary of your assigned artist 04/18/19

Final Project, Project Statement 05/09/19 and Finals Week

Personal Narratives 02/14/19 and 04/25/19

Exam 1 02/28/19

Exam 2 (Midterm) 04/25/19

Defining Health Exercise 03/07/19 and 04/25/19



Class Project 40%

Personal Narratives 20%

Exam 1 10%

Exam 2 (Midterm) 20%

Defining health exercise 10%

Students not turning in all assignments will receive a WU for the course.

Please check the class calendar on Blackboard for assignment due dates.

01/24/19 - Introduction to Class

Read Cole 1 - 17; Chapter 2

The Individual Experience

01/31/19 - Disease

Read Chapter 7 of Cole.

Read Cassel, Eric J. "The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine." 306, no. 11 (1982): 639-45. (Blackboard)

02/07/19 - Illness Narratives and Meaning

Read Lorde.

02/14/19 - Ways of Knowing

Read Chapter 13 of Cole.

02/21/19 - Goals of Medicine

Read Chapter 14 of Cole.

02/28/19 - Health and Disease

Read Kafka

03/07/19 -Defining Health

Film: Ikiru by Kurosawa in class.

Read Chapter 15 of Cole

03/14/19 - Death and Dying; Health of Populations

Read Chapter 5 and 6 in Cole.

The Community and Political Experience: The AIDS Epidemic

03/21/19 - AIDS Epidemic

Read Chapters 1 and 2 in Harden, Victoria Angela. AIDS at 30: A History. First ed. 2012. Available on Blackboard.

Film: We Were Here in class

03/28/19 - Communicating AIDS

Read Chapters 3, 4, and 6 of Harden, Victoria Angela. AIDS at 30: A History. First ed. 2012. Available on Blackboard.

04/04/19 - Spring Break, No Class

04/11/19 - Keith Haring and David Wojnarowicz

Film: How to Survive a Plague in class.

04/18/19 -

Read Wojnarowicz, "Living Close to the Knives" and "Postcards from America: X Rays from Hell in Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration."

04/25/19 - Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Nan Goldin, Wolfgang Tillmans, Medicine and Power

Examination on AIDS epidemic

The Anthropocene

05/02/19 and 05/09/19 - The Anthropocene and Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

Read Chapter 17 in Cole

Film: Safe in class.

Read McCarthy - Finish by 05/09/19