Two abstract hands touching with their index fingers
Category: Health Magazine, Summer 2023

Title:Partnership expands medical humanities and health justice work

Author: Karen Teber
Date Published: June 20, 2023

The Georgetown-Howard Center for Medical Humanities and Health Justice—a new collaboration between the two universities, supported by a 3.5-year, $3 million grant from the Mellon Foundation—will focus on reducing health disparities in Washington, DC, by leveraging methods of critical inquiry at the heart of the humanities.

The interdisciplinary field of medical humanities examines the clinical side of medical practice within the context of the patient’s experience of health, illness, suffering, and healing. It expands health education and scholarship to encompass a broader social, cultural, and historical context. The field engages disciplines such as history, literary studies, philosophy, bioethics, psychology, medical anthropology, and the visual and performing arts.

“These approaches play a frontline role in contextualizing health care, shaping health policy and communication, allocating resources, dismantling racism and health disparities, and caring for vulnerable communities,” says Lakshmi Krishnan, founding director of Georgetown’s Medical Humanities Initiative, assistant professor of medicine at Georgetown’s School of Medicine, and co-leader of the Mellon Foundation grant with Dana Williams, dean of the Howard University Graduate School.

The new center is grounded in the needs of the Washington, DC, community. Its faculty and students will apply a medical humanities approach in addressing key health impact areas, health disparities related to race/ethnicity and income, and health care delivery, with the goal of advancing health equity in the District.

Uniquely, the center aims to transform humanities concepts—traditionally confined to the classroom—into the realm of public action.

The center also will explore curricular changes, moving away from a focus on Western medicine to engage local, global, and comparative networks of thought. This effort will support joint education in medical humanities, leveraging both universities’ strengths to offer a progressive curriculum committed to the alleviation of health care challenges and health disparities.

Scholarship will be a primary focus, as the center reinvents traditional solo humanities inquiry through a team science model that cultivates cross-institutional and community research engagement. A fellows program will allow faculty from both universities and community partners to examine the region’s most troublesome health issues. The community will benefit from access to online, open access resources and educational events showcasing the center’s work.

“Health practitioners can only treat the whole person when they are able to recognize and value humanity in its many facets,” says Krishnan, who also created and directs the Medical Humanities, Culture, and Society minor program in the College of Arts & Sciences. “There is enormous potential to improve outcomes by taking this broader view of health.”

More News

woman hugging child

Georgetown’s renowned nurse-midwifery program celebrates 50 years ‌ ‌ When reports in the early 1970s revealed alarmingly high infant mortality rates…

Georgetown’s leadership in the complex field of medical ethics   A patient in critical condition refuses treatment, adamant that she be allowed to leave…


Interdisciplinary solutions for the complex problems of neuroscience From the time he was a young boy, fascinated with dinosaurs and his rock…