carolyn-chow-headshot
Carolyn Chow is a fellow with the Collegium Institute, spearheading the medical humanities fellowship. (Photo from Carolyn Chow)

The Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture, a scholarly nonprofit, will offer a new medical humanities fellowship for Penn students next semester.

The fellowship will consist of six seminars focusing on the human side of medicine rather than the technical side, Collegium Institute undergraduate fellow and College junior Carolyn Chow said. The seminars will focus on topics including mental wellness, spirituality, and art in medicine. Each seminar will be led by one clinician and one humanities scholar, and will be held every other Wednesday starting Jan. 23. 

The fellowship was created after a series of discussions the institute hosted last year related to the intersection of humanities and medicine. Collegium Institute Director Daniel Cheely said the institute decided to establish a more intensive semester-long program based on feedback from those discussions. 

The new fellowship is open to all Penn student applicants, including medical students. Cheely said, however, that it is mainly geared toward pre-med and nursing undergraduates.

Classical Studies professor Ralph Rosen, one of the facilitators for the first seminar next semester, said the way modern medicine is practiced in the West is a relatively recent development. Up until the mid-19th century, medical students read classical authors, such as Hippocrates, in addition to learning technical skills.

“I think that medical humanities is tending to bring back that humanistic aspect of the whole world of medicine,” Rosen said.

At the end of the program, fellows will write short statements about what they learned and how they will continue to consider the humanities in their careers.

“By the end, we want people to formulate a personal philosophy of clinical practice,” Chow said. 

Cheely also said the Collegium Institute's mission is not restricted to studying Catholic religious thought, but the institute hopes to create spaces for universal conversation. 

“One of the major things that we do generally is to promote conversations in our university that are lowercase ‘c’ catholic — or universal — that help students, faculty, all of us think about questions that transcend any one discipline,” Cheely said.

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