Prerequisites: Available to M3 and M4 Students

Required Reading:

  • Peter Shaffer, Equus
  • Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
  • Toni Morrison’s Sula


  • What is the purpose of the course?  This course will examine the concept of the abnormal as it is used in biomedicine. To that end, we will spend a good deal of time interrogating the formulations and functions of the Normal. To make our interrogation of this enormous and pervasive topic manageable, we will focus our attention on a familiar – and seemingly stable – object: the body. Despite all that our bodies share in common, differences in shape, size, and color or gender, behavior and desire can elicit wildly opposing reactions ranging from sympathy and disgust to affection and violence. The body’s ability to engender such disparate responses stems in large part from the various and contradictory ways science and medicine have invested it with meaning. Each of the literary, filmic, and historic narratives selected for this seminar tackles biomedicine’s role in determining what is and is not abnormal.
  • How will it help them, and how does it relate to the overall curriculum? Through a humanities-driven exploration of biomedicine’s role in defining what is normal and abnormal, students will learn critical skills that will aid in caring for patients who are different from them based on gender identity, sexual orientation, and bodily morphology.

Learning Objectives:

1. Students will become familiar with the methodologies of the health humanities, especially close reading and textual analysis through the following activities:

  • Class Discussions
  • Assigned Readings
  • In-Class Group Activities
  • Group Discussion

2. Students will appreciate the value of humanities skills for the clinic, especially when treating nontraditional patients through the following activities:

  • Reflective Paper
  • Final Paper
  • Class Presentation
  • Class discussion
  • Assigned Readings

3. Students will identify the consequences of medicine’s influence on defining what is abnormal behavior and bodily morphology through the following activities:

  • Assigned Readings
  • Class Discussions
  • In-Class Group Activities

4. Students will recognize the value of challenging medical models of disability through the following activities:

  • Assigned Readings
  • Class Discussions
  • Writing Assignments
  • Class Presentation

5. Students will explore different forms and expressions of embodiment through the following activities:

  • Assigned Readings
  • Class Discussions

6. Students will appreciate a narrative approach to medical ethics and how such an approach aids in broadening one’s acceptance of difference through the following activities:

  • Assigned Readings
  • Writing Assignments


The following competencies will be addressed directly or indirectly :

  • Patient Care
    • Consider the cultural and socioeconomic factors in management options
    • Counsel and educate patients and their families
  • Medical Knowledge
    • Understand the cultural factors important to health care
    • Understand relevant legal and ethical concepts
  • Practice-Based Learning and Improvement
    • Assess his/her strengths and weaknesses in order to improve performance and identify effective ways to address limitations and enhance expertise
    • Access information effectively, efficiently, critically appraise the information and relate it to their patient’s health problems
    • Admit his/her limits of knowledge, know what to do when those limits are reached, deal with uncertainty, and respect the opinions of others
    • Recognize the need to learn is continuous
  • Interpersonal and Communication Skills
    • Listen attentively
  • Professionalism
    • Respect the opinion of others
    • Recognize the need to learn is continuous
    • Demonstrate respect for human dignity

Instructional Features:

Class Meetings: Depending on the topic or theme for the class, the hourly breakdown will vary according to assigned readings and discussions of them. A typical class will contain three hours of discussion and one hour of in-class group activities (3-4 hours prep time)
Small Group Discussion: 2 hours each day
Student Presentation: 20 mins (1-2 hours prep time)
Reflective Paper: 2-3 hours to complete
Final 7-page paper: 8-10 hours to complete


Students will be evaluated on their written work for the class, their class presentations, and the participation in class discussion by faculty leader in the form of written and verbal feedback. Monday of second week students will receive verbal feedback during a one-on­ one meeting with faculty leader.

Administrative Information

Program number: ELEC 421
Location: UIC Department of Medical Education
Program Director: Michael Blackie, PhD
Telephone:  213-324-4796 (Cell)
Duration: 2 weeks
Night call: No
Weekends: No
Students accepted:  Minimum: 3 – Maximum: 12
House staff used as faculty: No
Inpatient/faculty contact: NA
Laboratory/independent study: No lab
Outpatient: No
Total hour week: 40

Updated: 3/29/19