Bridging the Gap Between Medicine and the Arts

Courtesy of Morgan Biele

My name is Morgan Biele and I am a junior majoring in neuroscience with minors in chemistry and creative writing. I am pursuing a pre-medical course load, but have developed a passion for the “Health Humanities” — a field where I can explore healthcare with skills and perspective from those fields traditionally separated from my science courses, via the humanities.

Whether I am co-instructing a house course called “Narratives of Illness and Healing,” writing fiction about health and the patient experience in creative writing courses, or writing for the Duke Medical Ethics Journal, I have ensured the arts can most certainly be pre-medical for me too.

The Duke Medical Ethics Journal is an undergraduate-led publication that features students’ voices in blogs and articles that center ethics in dialogue with medicine. We recognize that medicine and science are bio-psychosocially and culturally embedded fields that deserve an equally bio-psychosocial and cultural lens. As a result, when we write and publish pieces, we hope that we can inspire new ideas of what medicine looks like and should look like in the future if conducted by prioritizing ethics.

The Duke Medical Ethics Journal team together at the publication’s launch. Photo courtesy of Morgan Biele.

For me, that looks like having art and the humanities deeply involved in medicine. I’m extremely passionate about how art depicts health and well-being, and in turn how health and well-being inform art. Together, they both teach us about our humanness and our experiences — therefore, the arts and humanities should have a seat at the table when providing healthcare.

In my piece, I consider the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has seen great advancements and the increased incorporation of both technology and the health humanities in medical practice. These two are usually regarded as though they can’t co-exist, but I posit that, in fact, healthcare is likely best if they do. For example, the pandemic has seen people flock to poetry written by patients and providers, but also needed technology like telehealth to meet people when they could no longer do so in-person. The two operated in different ways but both functioned to meet people where they were, make them feel like their experience was understood, and help them feel better. Both the art and technology succeeded in generating a sense of human connection when it seemed most scarce and was most needed. Going forward, that should be recognized in medicine and used to cultivate health and well-being.

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