Humanities in Health Series - Overview

History and Overview

Abdesalam Soudi, PhD, Jeannette South-Paul, MD

Cultural differences have always been integral to American society, which is a dynamic mixture of races, ethnicities, experiences, practices, and beliefs. However, only recently has there been recognition of the importance of these cultural differences in medical and health sciences education. The Humanities in Health (HinH) initiative grew out of this need, with a focus on cultural and linguistic competency in health science education and practice and exploring the impact of diversity on the training of physicians and other clinicians on the healthcare team.

The Humanities in Health (HinH) Program is a cross-unit partnership which includes Linguistics, Education, Business, and Medicine. This collaboration originated as a teaching partnership between a Pitt family doctor (Dr. Jeannette South-Paul) and a Pitt linguist (Dr. Abdesalam Soudi) in 2004 who teamed up to design and teach an interdisciplinary cultural competency course for medical and health science trainees.

The team felt that medicine is in dire need of influence from the humanities. Medicine deals not only with the human body, but also with the mind and spirit, and it is therefore essential to adopt a wide humanistic perspective when providing healthcare. Since these human aspects themselves also vary by culture, language, lifestyle, demographics, religion and several other factors, it is even more important to integrate the humanities into medical education in order to train clinicians to provide culturally responsive and sensitive healthcare.

The Family Medicine-Linguistics partnership subsequently expanded to include the Department of ObGyn in 2015, and the School of Education and the David Berg Center at Pitt. The group designs services and events on the topics of Diversity, Cultural Competency, and Health, and also provides a platform to highlight collaborations among medical clinicians and researchers and colleagues working in disciplines across the humanities and related fields.

HinH is not only steered by a group of professionally and culturally diverse people, but also appeals to a wide, diverse audience. Participants in past events include students in both the humanities and health sciences, linguists, nurses, physicians, counselors, physician-assistants, nurse practitioners, therapists, public health officials, healthcare policymakers, administrators, and health educators. Importantly, it also includes community members such as patients, refugee and immigrant organizations, the International Patient Center, the UPMC Health Plan, and the UPMC Center for Engagement and Inclusion, as well as researchers involved in community-based care. This unusual diversity of participants increases everyone’s understanding of the populations we are serving and their diverse needs and builds bridges between previously disparate groups.

HinH Committee:

Abdesalam Soudi, PhD (Department of Linguistics)
Jeannette South-Paul, MD (Department of Family Medicine)
Shelome Gooden, PhD (Department of Linguistics)
Judy Chang, MD MPH (Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences)
Valerie Kinloch, PhD (School of Education)
Audrey Murrell, PhD (David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership)
Scott Kiesling, PhD (Department of Linguistics)