Welcome to SCOPE: The Health Humanities Learning Lab!
SCOPE: The Health Humanities Learning Lab is the online hub for Canada’s first arts- and humanities-based undergraduate health curriculum. Launched under the direction of Professor Andrea Charise at the University of Toronto Scarborough, the purpose of SCOPE is to highlight the innovative research and learning initiatives being done by our awesome interdisciplinary team of Health Humanities students and researchers.
Read on, learn more, and expand the scope of your thinking about health!
What Is Health Humanities?
Over the past thirty years, health professional education has undergone a shift in attitude and disciplinary culture by balancing a conventional emphasis on biomedical knowledge with the so-called “soft” skills of communication, interpretation, and observation honed by the arts and humanities. The flourishing interdisciplinary field known as Health Humanities—which explores human health and illness through the methods and materials of the creative arts and humanities—is one of the most vibrant outcomes of that shift. The growth of Health Humanities throughout North America and Europe is evident in the rise of undergraduate programs, professional training opportunities, career pathways, conferences, and dedicated scholarly journals (including the British Medical Journal’s Medical Humanities, Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Journal of Medical Humanities, Literature and Medicine, and Arts and Health).
But wait a second, you might be thinking. What do the arts and humanities have to do with health? Good question. Health Humanities is an exciting way to discover how the arts and humanities provide us with creative and intellectually challenging ways of representing health, illness, and disability. The arts and humanities—which include literature, visual and performing arts, film, drama, philosophy and history—are especially good at enriching our knowledge of the individual experience of health and illness: often in the form of stories and imaginatively critical works of art.
Peer-reviewed academic research has shown the positive relationship between Health Humanities training and desirable characteristics in health practitioners (including physicians, nurses, and public health trainees). The skills traditionally emphasized by humanities disciplines—including critical reading and thinking, close reading, oral and written communication, visual literacy, and narrative analysis—are therefore a vital complement to more conventional disciplinary approaches to health education. As a result of this interdisciplinary training and engagement with the arts and humanities, Health Humanities students are uniquely prepared to confront the complexities of health in the public sphere—as rigorous, articulate, and, perhaps above all, critically empathetic evaluators.
Why Study Health Humanities at UTSC?
Health Humanities develops the intellectual tools students need to critically explore artistic and cultural representations of human health, illness, and the lived effects of health policy. While Health Humanities is increasingly appearing as part of health professional and medical education, at UTSC we believe that Health Humanities training should be made available to all students at the undergraduate level. Improving access to Health Humanities training at the undergraduate level can also help students chart career opportunities in fields like health communication, community health, health policy, art therapy, as well as the health professions (including medicine, nursing, and allied health careers such as occupational therapy and rehabilitation sciences). Health Humanities is, furthermore, an opportunity to experience, and engage with, the value of the arts and humanities in the applied context of health studies.
UTSC’s pioneering Health Humanities curriculum—the very first of its kind in Canada—is intended for students who want to explore this emerging and important aspect of health care and undergraduate education. Health Humanities attracts students from a range of disciplines, including neuroscience, human biology, mental health, anthropology, health policy, languages, fine arts, and literature. Among other benefits, working with students, teachers, and researchers from a wide range of disciplines is excellent practice for the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration required in the health professional context.
Health Humanities at UTSC encourages undergraduate students to appreciate the wide applicability of a Health Studies education: after all, health and illness are not experienced exclusively within the hospital setting. By developing your abilities to analyze theoretical and applied dimensions of health studies, you will gain a greater understanding of how the arts and humanities reveal the complex, interdisciplinary nature of human health and illness—in professional settings, scholarly contexts, and in your own lived experience as a health care consumer and potential patient.
Since launching in 2014, hundreds of UTSC students have already discovered how Health Humanities generates meaningful intellectual and professional opportunities through undergraduate courses, independent studies, research awards, academic posters and conference presentations. Check out our Outcomes page for recent good news and announcements!
What Is a Learning Lab?
The primary purpose of SCOPE: The Health Humanities Learning Lab is to serve as an online hub for Health Humanities education, research, and learning at UTSC. A perpetual work in progress, SCOPE will feature Health Humanities research initiatives, course information, student projects, and service-learning opportunities, as well as local, national, and international events and links. Stay updated via SCOPE’s website, blog, and social media as we work to grow Health Humanities in Canada – and beyond.
Come learn with us. Work with us. Broaden your scope.