Medical humanities symposium cuts deep

Video and story by Jacquelyn Kellar | Broadcast Managing Editor

Baylor’s medical humanities program hosted a symposium on Saturday, welcoming several guest speakers to talk to students about the social and humanitarian aspects of medicine.

“[Medical humanities] provides students with the opportunity to really understand themselves and the world in which they’re going to be operating in,” said Rebecca Lunstroth, associate director of the Center for Humanities and Ethics at the McGovern Medical School. “How do you help humanity? It’s not memorizing biological facts. It’s a social occupation.”

Dr. Thomas Cole, director of the Center for Humanities and Ethics at the McGovern Medical School, created a film about the emotional nuances of the gross anatomy lab that all medical students must enter. The simultaneous presence and absence of the spirit of the cadaver has a lasting impression on students and was a tricky subject that Cole wanted to convey visually.

“If I could get real conversations about what it was like the first time you cut somebody open and what it was like to put your hand in the soft underbelly of the muscle,” said Cole. “Most of [the students] would say ‘I’m sorry for hurting you.’ The donor says ‘The only way they can disrespect me is if they don’t learn as much as possible from dissecting my body.’ So I’ve created a dialogue between the living and the dead.”

The event ended with an interactive interview with local patient Brandi Winemiller. Winemiller was born with a significant amount of her vision and hearing missing. The department brought her on to describe to the student show important it is for someone with a condition like hers to have compassionate, understanding doctors.

“Some of us have limited abilities and are in different economic structures, but we’re still human,” said Winemiller. “We need to be valued as humans. Our disabilities don’t define us.”