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NEH Grant Supports Faculty Study Of Medicine as Expression of Cultural Beliefs

Members of New York City College of Technology’s City Tech’s faculty in the health fields have embarked on a year-long project to explore ways of enhancing students’ understanding of cultural differences among patients.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)-supported project is titled “Comparative Perspectives on Health, Illness, and Healing.” It will involve faculty members from City Tech’s departments of nursing, radiological technology and medical imaging, dental hygiene, vision care technology, biological sciences, and law and paralegal studies. Through seminars and independent study, they will explore Eastern and Western approaches to health, disease and healing in specific cultural and historical contexts.

The NEH faculty fellows will focus on such topics as Eastern versus Western systems of medical knowledge, portrayals of illness in world art, cultural interpretations of addiction, and the religious, ethical and legal meanings of death across cultures.

“The goal is to enable participating faculty, and consequently their students, to become more thoughtful, culturally competent, and ethically aware practitioners,” said Associate Professor Mary Sue Donsky, JD (law and paralegal studies), project co-director. “That can happen by better understanding variables of philosophy, values and culture that underlie medical practice in different societies.”

Like other colleges, City Tech’s associate and baccalaureate degree curricula in the health fields are constricted by requirements imposed by licensing and accrediting bodies at the state and federal levels.  Since degree requirements leave little room for humanities electives, the NEH grant will enable City Tech faculty to develop special cross-cultural study modules and learning activities to be integrated into existing courses.

“Although there are good examples of this type of exploration by medical schools, it is unusual in the education of pre-licensure, associate degree, allied health students,” says Barbara Grumet, JD, dean of City Tech’s School of Professional Studies and project director.

According to Provost Bonne August, “Previous NEH support has had a substantial impact on City Tech, helping to develop critical links between our School of Technology and Design and departments in our School of Arts and Sciences that teach general education courses.

“I am pleased that faculty teaching in our allied health programs now have the opportunity to enhance their understanding of how the humanities can improve their teaching, student learning and ultimately, patient care,” she adds.

The new $77,000 NEH grant includes support for lectures by outside speakers, including Dr. Rita Charon, author of Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness; Dr. Arya Nielsen, Beth Israel Medical Center for Integrative Medicine and director of the Acupuncture Fellowship Program for Inpatient Care; Dr. Bert Hansen, author of Picturing Medical Progress from Pasteur to Polio: A History of Mass Media Images and Popular Attitudes in America. These lectures will be open to the general public.

On Friday, April 19, there will be a free lecture on “Inter-professional Communication and Safety for Health and Human Services Professionals,” in the Atrium Amphitheatre, 300 Jay Street, from 9 a.m. to noon.

City Tech lead faculty on this grant include Aida Egues and Elaine Leinung (nursing); Gwen Cohen-Brown (dental hygiene); Kara Pasner (vision care technology); Laina Karthikeyan (biological sciences); Sarah Standing, Shauna Vey, Roxana Delbene Grossi, Sandra Cheng (humanities); and Lisa Pope Fischer (social sciences).

03.14.13


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