Faculty Feature | 2/16/2023

Putting the Human Back in Health

By Jennifer Persons


In the first episode of the MCPHS Bicentennial Podcast, The Secret to Living to 200, Dr. Dien Ho explores the rising prevalence of humanities in healthcare.

The number of healthcare universities recognizing the health humanities as a vital part of training is rapidly growing, and more are adding programs and courses dedicated to this discipline. Professor of Philosophy Dien Ho, PhD, argues that all healthcare providers should see patients as more than “a bundle of physiological conditions,” and studying the humanities can provide that perspective.

In this episode, Dr. Ho challenges traditional definitions of health to explore the growing importance of the humanities in healthcare settings. He also discusses the shift in modern medicine toward holistic care and the expanding role of healthcare providers.

Listen to Episode 1 and every episode of The Secret to Living to 200 on our Bicentennial website or anywhere you get your podcasts.

Three Things to Know About Health Humanities:

1. It’s a mixture of medicine, history, philosophy, ethics, literature, and more subjects.

Health humanities combines several non-scientific subjects into one discipline. They are all included to give students and healthcare providers context for seeing their patients as people. Dr. Ho says that the definition of health humanities is fluid and remains open to including new areas of study.

2. Humanities undergraduate students have one of the highest medical school acceptance rates.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical schools in the U.S. accepted more than 50% of undergraduate applicants with humanities majors in 2023-2024. Dr. Ho says the critical reasoning skills that humanities subjects emphasize are easily translatable to other aspects of medical practice.

3. It is closely connected to public health.

Both health humanities and public health are concerned with the social determinants of health, or the external factors that can significantly impact a person’s health outcomes. Dr. Ho argues that a person’s living situation, economic status, or social needs are just as important for providers to understand as their medical history.

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