Literature & Medicine

“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

— Henry David Thoreau

Healing has as much to do with the soul as the body. So how can the humanities be a support to our healthcare system—and to some of our most vulnerable patients, wounded veterans? Our answer has been to begin to offer the Literature & Medicine program to VA hospitals in California.

This program has shown it can help improve the quality of patient care through having hospital workers engage in deep conversations about the circumstances that brought their patients into their care. Facilitated discussion about issues revealed by poetry, plays, personal narratives, and films uncover realities of people’s lives that no x-ray can. 

Since 2009, Cal Humanities has been working with VA hospitals—now in Fresno, Palo Alto, and Sacramento—to train staff and scholar-facilitators, and provide literature and ongoing technical assistance as well as stipends. Our involvement in Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care® is part of a national effort initiated by the Maine Humanities Council to improve health care through humanities approaches that increase the ability of caregivers to empathize with and better communicate with patients, family members, and peers. This program has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Veterans Administration, and private funders.

Learn how Literature & Medicine is related to Cal Humanities' statewide initiative, War Comes Home

For more information, contact Senior Program Officer Felicia Kelley

Join The Conversation