Humanities Courses

We offer elective courses through Nexus Learning. We gear these courses toward first- and second-year medical students and align with the mission and vision of the medical school.

We require all students to take Art of Listening I; the second Art of Listening class is optional.

All incoming first-year students participate in Art of Listening I during Orientation week. Listening is a crucial but sometimes challenging task in clinical medicine. Musicians think about listening as a fundamental part of their daily work, and can offer insights that are helpful to physicians.

The Art of Listening offers medical students the opportunity to reflect on the complexities of listening. It builds skills through lectures, discussions, and an interactive concert by professional musicians.

This summer program consists of three sessions that build on the Art of Listening I to prepare students for the listening involved in clinical medicine. The program includes an interactive concert with Teaching Artists from the New York Philharmonic, a New York Philharmonic performance at Avery Fisher Hall, and a reflection session. Art of Listening II runs during summer break and is open to rising third-year ISMMS students.

The Pulse of Art weaves together the history of art and the history of medicine using in-depth analysis of great works of art that illuminate the experience of illness as well as historic advances in healing. The class emphasizes the central role of careful observation in both art and medicine, focusing on the human condition, the role of the physician in society, and the connection between creativity in science and in medicine. The course includes private sessions at the Guggenheim Museum and the New York Academy of Medicine's Rare Book Room.

This seminar draws inspiration from current psychological research, positing that examination of dreams can equip you to better process their acculturation into the medical field. You discuss your dreams (anonymously) in a non-judgmental setting of inquiry under the guidance of psychoanalytically oriented psychiatrists; the goal is to aid in students’ professional growth and counter the obstacles to growth you may encounter in their medical education. The instructor offers didactics on dream theory and interpretation, in order to de-mystify dreams and provide context. The group setting enables you to learn about yourselves by learning about one another.

Mindfulness-based practices have a long history in Eastern medicine and in spiritual traditions from around the world. Anecdotally, these practices have long been considered effective modulators of physical as well as psychic health. In recent years, case-control studies of cognitive practice have demonstrated quantifiable molecular changes and physical health benefits from a habitual mindfulness practice. This elective course introduces and explores the experiential and evidence-based rationale for mindfulness-based cognitive practices in self-care and patient care, looking at evidence-based practices and case-control studies.

Improvisation training gives actors a way of working that is authentic, intelligent, and tuned into the other members of the ensemble. Improv actors boast a skill set that is remarkably consistent with the competencies considered desirable for medical learners, such as listening and observing; collaborating (teambuilding); interpersonal skills; narrative skills; spontaneity/creative problem-solving; swift adaptation to change; increased tolerance of uncertainty; and increased emotional resilience. Classes consist of a group warm-up and multiple games and exercises targeting basic improv skills as well as time to debrief each activity.

This course exposes you to the history and philosophy of the science of medicine. Although knowledge in medicine is largely based on science, it is surprising how much of the practice of medicine is not. We fail to follow science in medical practice and other endeavors partially due to certain innate cognitive biases; indeed, the scientific method was invented to counter these. On the other hand, the nature of evidence in science and medicine has also been the subject of much philosophical debate.

This one-day museum workshop involves looking at modern and contemporary works of art and discussing them from multiple perspectives. Participants reflect on intent (personal feeling, empathy), sociocultural context (medical history), and complex systems of interpretation (the work of art vs. the body). The course includes a hands-on creative session and final reflection on the parallel languages between science and humanities study.