NEH Grant Helps School of Arts and Sciences Develop New Curriculum

Siobhan Conaty, Ph.D., associate professor of art history, will be the program director for this new initiative.

The funding will attend develop a minor in health and human sciences exploring the relationship between health and the human condition.

La Salle University has received great honor in the world of humanities.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded La Salle a NEH Connections grant, laying the groundwork to fund a health and humanities minor that will explore the relationships between health and the human condition.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency established in 1965, supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected proposals and peer-reviewed across the United States.

The program director for this new initiative at La Salle is Siobhan Conaty, Ph.D., associate professor of art history. Along with Brian DeHaven, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, Conaty will begin researching and planning what will become a concentration, then an undergraduate minor, and eventually a major in the School of Arts and Sciences at La Hall.

The new concentration will be available to students in the 2023-2024 academic year. It will continue through the process of becoming a minor, with the long-term goal of becoming an undergraduate major, Conaty said.

“It’s truly an honor to be selected by the NEH,” said Conaty. “We plan to create a program here that will benefit both our students and the healthcare professional field as a whole.”

spring campus

Universities, Conaty said, need the health humanities more than ever. Citing a global pandemic, strained health care systems and economies, and cultural and political polarization, she sees a greater need for medical professionals and scientists who can witness the facts of public health and medicine related to the human compassion.

With many medical schools requiring students to take courses in the humanities, Conaty said it made sense for La Salle to offer a similar opportunity to his students enrolled in pre-health undergraduate courses.

“It’s exciting on so many fronts,” DeHaven said. “It encourages our pre-med students to learn about courses and topics in the humanities while helping them write their resumes for medical school. Programs like this have been shown to improve their diagnostic accuracy on the road. »

This NEH planning grant allows Conaty and DeHaven to spend the next year doing research, visiting campuses with similar programs, and evaluating resources already available at La Salle.

Conaty said she and DeHaven will use existing faculty strengths to create an interdisciplinary, dynamic and experiential program. She said the University’s humanities courses use and apply methods that provide future health professionals with new insights into the frailty of health, disease, suffering and disparities in health care systems. health in philosophical, cultural and historical contexts.

“We are thrilled to be part of programming that recognizes the essential role of the humanities in health education and we look forward to positioning La Salle as an innovator in undergraduate health humanities education. “said Siobhan Conaty, Ph.D., associate professor of art. history and program director.

The La Salle campus holds a plethora of resources for this program, Conaty said, including the Connelly Art Museum and Library, among others. The next step, she said, is to apply for an implementation grant through the NEH to get the program established on campus.

“I am thrilled that our colleagues have received this grant, which will allow us to continue our mission of providing a practical education for our students that is firmly grounded in the humanities,” said Lynne Texter, Ph.D., Vice President by interim. and Vice President for Academic Affairs. “This interdisciplinary minor will be a timely and valuable addition to our course offerings. Students will be exposed to our outstanding faculty as they expand their knowledge, improve their credentials for medical school, and prepare to become more attentive, caring, and reflective professionals.

In a 2020 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), titled The Fundamental Role of the Arts and Humanities in Medical Education, four functions of the arts and humanities are cited as strengthening the education of medical students and doctors :

  • Master skills: improve clinical care skills such as case presentation and critical thinking.
  • Stepping back: Bringing to light the different perspectives of patients and others involved in clinical encounters
  • Personal Insight: Fostering reflection on inner processes and struggles, which contribute to self-identity, emotional growth, well-being and resilience.
  • Social Advocacy: Engaging learners to critique and transform norms, as well as potential inequities and injustices in health care.

“We are thrilled to be part of programming that recognizes the essential role of the humanities in health education and we look forward to positioning La Salle as an innovator in health humanities education at the undergraduate,” Conaty said.

Conaty said the NEH Connections grant application process took about six months. Three other people were involved in the process: Pamela Barnett, Ph.D., dean of the La Salle School of Arts and Sciences; LeeAnn Cardaciotto, Ph.D., acting director of the master’s program in professional clinical counseling, associate dean of arts and sciences and associate professor of psychology; and Lisa Jarvinen, Ph.D., Associate Dean and Associate Professor.

NEH seal

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This project was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Humanities Connections.

—Meg Ryan

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