The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

4085.0: Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 8:50 AM

Abstract #57780

Using Literature to Teach Activism for Public Health

Martin T Donohoe, MD, FACP, Senior Scholar, Center for Ethics in Health Care, Oregon Health and Science University, 3718 Rivers Edge Drive, Lake Oswego, OR 97034, 503/819-6979,

Non-medical literature has long been employed in health care education as a vehicle for vicarious experience and a catalyst for discussion of the social, cultural, economic, occupational and environmental contributors to health and wellness. Reading literature allows for vicarious experience, can teach healers about the experiences of illness, suffering and death, and can increase their empathy, understanding of cultural differences, and appreciation of alternative viewpoints. Reading about the experiences of those who suffer the consequences of poverty, homelessness, racism, violence, substance abuse and stigmatization can help practitioners and students to identify more closely with their patients, whose complex lives they glimpse only during periodic clinic visits. This session will focus on literature as an educational vehicle to stimulate social activism among public health and health professions students. It aims to encourage educators to incorporate short literary selections into their teaching. The session will offer background on famous authors who were also health professionals/sometime activists, such as John Keats, Rudolph Virchow, Anton Chekhov, and William Carlos Williams; short stories and poems from these and other writers (e.g., Leo Tostoy, George Orwell, Pearl Buck, Doris Lessing, Shusaku Endo, Ernest J Gaines and others) will be described and brief passages read aloud. Suggestions for incorporating literary pieces into various teaching situations will be provided. The presenter will focus on works he has employed in 14 years of teaching courses in medical humanities and social justice ethics. Syllabi will be distributed, along with a list of websites and resources for educators.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Social Activism, Humanism

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Teaching Activism for Public Health

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA