It all started with a Medicine Buddha sand mandala.
The Venerable Losang Samten, a Tibetan Buddhist monk and scholar, was in residence at Penn State Abington in October 2015 to help inaugurate an art gallery at the invitation of Professor Pierce Salguero. It was then that Professor Salguero and Professor Wendy Horwitz connected their shared vision of offering health and medical humanities opportunities at Abington.
With the support of Division Chair Friederike Baer, Horwitz and Salguero developed the “Health Humanities Initiative,” featuring: a lecture series; a faculty reading group; and a student-led Health Humanities Arts Festival, which is celebrating it its third year. Colleagues from the visual arts, theatre, English, nursing, biological sciences, and social sciences contribute to the Initiative, and in academic year 2019-20, the Health Humanities Club, with more than 25 members, became an official Penn State student organization.
These extra-curricular and faculty-enrichment activities enhanced interest in the health humanities. At the same time, course development built an academic foundation, including two, new inter-domain courses, “Health, Illness, and the Human Condition” and “Asian Traditions of Health, Medicine, and the Body,” as well as other courses in Asian medicine.
In collaboration with colleagues in the intercollege Penn State Bioethics Program, based at University Park, and support from campus administration, a proposal to launch the Bioethics and Medical Humanities (BMH) Minor was approved and will be available as of Fall 2020 for Abington students.
The BMH Minor is also available at the University Park Campus, and is currently in development at other Commonwealth campuses, as well.
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Thank you to Wendy A. Horwitz, assistant teaching professor, Writing and English Programs and Bioethics and Medical Humanities Minor, and member of the Bioethics Advisory Board, for providing this article.