Program History

Directed by Bill Schneider, PhD, the Medical Humanities and Health Studies (MHHS) program at IUPUI grew out of a Medical Humanities Interest Group that brought together faculty from Liberal Arts, Medicine, Nursing, and Law, along with existing programs in Health Law, Clinical Medical Ethics, and the campus History of Medicine Society. In 1998, the group received a $150,000 grant from the campus to initiate seminars and colloquia, support new research, and develop an undergraduate minor based in the School of Liberal Arts. By 1999, the group initiated a seminar speaker series and a Medical Humanities essay contest.

In fall of 1999 Schneider and Richard Gunderman, MD, PhD began teaching a new course called “Perspectives on Health, Disease, and Healing”, which was part of the newly approved minor program.  Schneider came to IUPUI in 1989 to chair the History Department after a dozen years in North Carolina where he taught and did research with funding from NSF, NIH, and Fulbright and developed a program in Science Studies with a grant from NEH. Gunderman came to IUPUI in 1997 with an MD and PhD in Social Thought from the University of Chicago to take up joint appointments in Radiology and Philosophy.

The MHHS program worked closely with the medical school to establish new units working in public health and the IU Center for Bioethics (2001). The MHHS curriculum expanded as new faculty in various humanities and social science departments offered health-related courses. In 1998, Judi Izuka-Campbell was hired to help coordinate and administer the program. The first MHHS minor was granted in 2000, and in 2006, the first student received a medical humanities undergraduate degree as part of a new Individualized Major program in Liberal Arts.

With growing numbers of students adopting this course of study and the undergraduate minor, planning began for a B.A. degree in MHHS which was approved in 2012 and graduated the first bachelor’s in MHHS the following year. That same year, Emily Beckman, DMH, was hired as the first full-time appointment in MHHS. Beckman started teaching part-time in 2008 after completing her doctorate at one of the two Medical Humanities Doctoral programs in the country. Beckman took the lead in securing approval of a graduate certificate in MHHS in 2014 and a doctoral minor the following year.

The seminar series continued to offer an opportunity for those on campus as well as distinguished visitors to present their interdisciplinary work to the varied audience of students, faculty and guests at IUPUI and the medical center. Noteworthy symposia and conferences included topics as varied as “Blame and Responsibility in Medical Practice” (2004), “Indiana and the Legacy of State and Local Eugenics, 1907-2007 (2007), Cancer Stories” (2008) and “The History of Western Medicine in China” (2012).

The eugenics conference was part of a multi-year research grant from NIH. Other research projects included “Voices from Central State” (2015) which studied records, writings and oral histories of patients and staff at Indiana’s flagship mental health institution that closed in 1994. The China conference was part of an ongoing collaboration with the Medical Humanities Institute at Peking University Health Science Center which began in 2008 and has included a multi-year research project (supported by the Rockefeller Archives Center, the Henry Luce Foundation, and Indiana University), plus student exchanges and conferences.

Student interest and curriculum offerings accelerated with a new core curriculum course (2011) and a B.S. degree option in MHHS (2016). In 2018, the first student was accepted in the Medical Humanities concentration of the new American Studies Ph.D. program, and in 2019, the first full class of medical students entered the Medical Humanities Scholarly Concentration at the IU School of Medicine. The IUSM Scholarly Concentration is directed by Beckman and Jane Hartsock, JD and taught by MHHS program faculty.

In 2016 Schneider stepped down and Emily Beckman replaced him as director. That same year Hartsock, a health lawyer and bioethicist, was hired as a full-time faculty member, and when she took a position as director of clinical ethics education at IU Health, she continued to teach part-time. Elizabeth Nelson, PhD, a medical historian, joined the program as a full-time faculty member in 2018. Notable adjunct faculty who teach regularly for the program include Jane Hartsock, JD, MA (Director of Clinical Ethics Education, IU Health), Peter Schwartz, MD, PhD (Director, IU Center for Bioethics, Departments of Philosophy and of Medicine), Brandon Brown, MD, MA (Radiology), Katharine Head (Communication Studies) and Angeline Larimer (Theatre and Medical Humanities).