A kaleidoscope of human experiences in music, art, dance and history will help broaden
skills being developed by today's medical students, according to UC Davis School of Medicine professor
and physician Faith Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is the school's new assistant dean of humanities and bioethics.
Fitzgerald has concrete plans on bringing students face to face with the human side of illness, but none
of it will be in a typical classroom setting.
The first on her list is to create an integrated learning approach at the patient's bed- side. In addition
to receiving a medical reference for a specific disease, students will also receive an essay written from
a patient's perception about living with that disease. For example, if students were caring for a person
with Parkinson's disease, they would also receive an essay written by a person with the disease describing
the human emotions and physical discom- forts Parkinson's can create.
Fitzgerald's second goal is already under way at the cross-cultural, student-run clinics. Ten medical
students are using tape recorders to gather first-hand accounts from patients in their native languages.
The narratives will provide insight into how various diseases are perceived in different cultures and
how individuals deal with illness in those communities.
Fitzgerald also wants to provide patients and medical students with a syllabus containing literary descriptions
of illnesses throughout the centuries to illustrate the commonality of the human experience with illness,
fear and death as expressed in literature, art and poetry. These will potentially provide a common beginning
for mutual discussion between the student and patient about what the patient is experiencing.
Lastly, Fitzgerald says she is excited about a new program Medicine at the Movies. Students are invited
at various times through the year to view films and documentaries about medicine, followed by discussion
"It's important to know how physicians and illness are portrayed in popular drama (movies), and how these
may shape the expectations of people about sickness and doctors," Fitzgerald says. "It is these expectations
even more than 'reality' that students must understand when they interact with their patients."
Long recognized as an out- standing educator as reflected in these innovative programs, Fitzgerald was
honored as the American Association of Medical Colleges' 2002 winner of the Alpha Omega Alpha Robert J.
Glaser Distinguished Teaching Award, intended to recognize faculty who provide medical students with an
educational experience of the highest quality.