General Education 1078. Disease, Illness, and Health through Literature


photo of professor karen thornber
Prof. Karen Thornber

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Inevitably, at some point in our lives, most of us will develop a health condition that requires medical treatment and care. We also, regardless of our career, are likely to be called on to provide care for those whose health conditions make it impossible for them to care for themselves. What does it mean to be an effective partner in care, both in our personal lives and, for those in the health professions, in our professional lives? How can we best prepare ourselves to be effective care partners, whether we are the givers of care, the receivers of care, or often both? What should our short-term and long-term goals be and how can we best implement these goals? As healthcare costs soar and considerable suffering from disease and illness continues despite regular advances in medical technology, what should we advocate for in our communities, our societies, our nations, and beyond to ease the burden of disease and illness on caregivers and care recipients alike?

This course provides the ideal space for you to contemplate these and similar fundamental questions, which all of us increasingly must face. Class discussions, readings, and written assignments will provide the tools for you to become more effective advocates for compassionate care, both now and in the future. Engaging with a diverse range of memoirs, creative non-fiction, life writing, and novels from five continents by physicians, patients (including physician-patients), and concerned citizens alike, the course challenges many fundamental preconceptions regarding disease, illness, health, and care. We will interrogate what it means to promote healing and wellbeing in our personal and professional lives.

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