Certificate in Medical Humanities

This Certificate is open to currently registered Dalhousie and King’s students in all Faculties, as well as to Special Undergraduate students who meet the entrance requirements for the Bachelor of Arts degree.


Contact / Coordinator: Roberta Barker, Associate Dean Academic, FASS (roberta.barker@dal.ca)


The field of studies described in scholarly literature by the names “Medical Humanities” or “Health Humanities” is a wide-ranging, interdisciplinary field that explores the complex relationships between medicine, health, society, and culture across a range of times and places. The Dalhousie / King’s Certificate in Medical Humanities is designed for anyone who wishes to learn more about the ways in which global human societies have constructed and engaged with health, wellness, medicine, illness, healing, and the body in the past; it also invites students to explore the means by which human societies might deepen their comprehension of these crucial concepts in the future.


This certificate will be of interest to students who are considering entering Medicine or the Health Professions and who wish to expand their knowledge of medicine’s interactions with human societies and forms of cultural expression. It will help these students to think critically about medicine’s past and future roles in human life, about changing definitions of health and illness, and about the interactions that affect the patient experience. It will also be of interest to students in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Sciences who wish to engage more thoughtfully and critically with the constructions of health and illness that shape our everyday lives, as well as with the health-related challenges that face contemporary civil society. Finally, the program will be of interest to members of the general public who wish to deepen their understanding of the past, present, and future of medicine, health, and healing in human cultures.


Learning Outcomes:

Upon completion of the Certificate, students will be able to:

  • Recognize and apply multiple definitions of key medical and health-related concepts, understanding their relationship to wider social, cultural, and historical contexts,
  • Situate the theory and practice of modern medicine within diverse historical contexts,
  • Understand conceptions of health that have shaped non-Western as well as Western societies, having completed at least one course that includes a substantial focus on non-Eurocentric material,
  • Formulate conceptions of contemporary medical and health-related practices grounded in a critical understanding of key social and/or political factors that have shaped the construction and experience of medicine and health in past and present cultures,
  • Approach the experiences and roles of patients, caregivers, and health professionals in a more informed and respectful manner thanks to a deepened knowledge of the ways these roles have been considered and represented in philosophical, literary, and/or artistic works across time,
  • Ask vital questions about the ethical and social implications of health policy, practice, and decision-making, and
  • Express their critical thinking about these concepts orally, in writing, and through visual forms of communication in order to engage effectively not only with academic audiences but also with the wider public (eg, patients, political and governmental bodies, online audiences, etc) about questions of medicine, illness, health, and wellness.


Students can count credit earned in these courses toward their undergraduate major, minor, or distribution requirements, unless otherwise specified in their program's regulations.




This Certificate is a 12-credit-hour certificate. Its requirements are as follows:


Core Area 1: History of Medicine

All students must take the following course:


Core Area 2: Medicine and Social Sciences

Students are required to choose one 3-credit-hour course from the following options:

  • INTD 3115.03: Global Health: Challenges of Global Health Equity in the 21st Century
  • SOSA 2502.03: Biomedicine and the Illness Experience
  • SOSA 2503.03: Health and Society
  • SOSA 2933.03: Health and Culture
  • SOSA 3143.03: Health, Illness, and the World System
  • SOSA 3145.03: Gender and Health
  • POLI 4260.03: The Politics of Health Care
  • POLI 4466.03: The Social and Political Construction of Health and Medicine


Core Area 3: Medicine and the Humanities

Students are required to choose one 3-credit-hour course from the following options:

  • ENGL 2030.93: Literature, Health and Healing
  • ENGL 3320.03: Literature and Medicine
  • HSTC 2202.03: The Beginnings of Western Medicine: The Birth of the Body
  • PHIL 2805.03: Ethics and Health Care: Patient Care
  • PHIL 2810.03: Ethics and Health Care: Social Policy


Elective Courses

Students are required to choose one 3-credit-hour elective course from the following options: