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Drew University Hosts Medical Humanities Alum Panel

“We are people caring for people”

April 2023 – Drew University’s Caspersen School of Graduate Studies hosted a panel discussion with alums of the Medical & Health Humanities program.

The open discussion was guided by Merel Visse, associate professor and director of the Medical & Health Humanities program.

The alum panelists included Elizabeth Bertolini G’14, clinical nurse ethicist at Atlantic Health Systems, Amy Eisenberg G’14,’17, health communication consultant, Nancy Gross G’08, consultant, humanities educator at Overlook Medical Center, Atlantic Health System, and Yvette Vieira G’17, manager of palliative care and bioethics at Atlantic Health Systems and medical & health humanities adjunct professor at Drew.

In her experience, Visse said there’s often confusion as to what medical and health humanities is and how it benefits the health profession overall.

“Medical Humanities is how the humanities affects a person’s experience with medical and health issues,” said Eisenberg, who shared that her description of medical humanities has been transformative and through her personal experience and what she has learned from the program.

Bertolini added that it’s “recognizing that we are people caring for people, and there’s give and take in that interaction.”

“It’s really understanding that the patient is more than a patient, and is more than just a person,” said Vieira. “They are a loved one and a family member. They are a neighbor and a community member and just what that shared experience is, and how that really interacts with their existence.”

Visse asked the panelists to recall a moment when their training in the program was beneficial to solving the problem in their respective professions.

All panelists pointed to how important it is to incorporate the humanities into their working roles.

“I sometimes hover between two loves or two worlds,” said Vieira. “I really love data, collecting data and understanding what is happening. But I enjoy applying the data to what is happening on a global scale.”

“You have to have data from medical humanities to show it works to present a case to the hospitals. Often we focus on the acute care setting as being the place where health care takes place. I would hope that we can expand that concept to know that health care, caring for people, and wellness takes place outside of the hospitals.”

“Our voices not only inform the community, but we receive what the community is saying—the patients, the clinicians, the whole community,” said Gross.

“We are trying to help improve the interaction between patients and healthcare providers,” said Eisenberg. “A culture of trust comes from effective communication.”

Visse asked if the panelists have any key takeaways from the program.

“The entire experience was enriching,” said Vieira. 

“As an older learner, I came back for my second master’s in my 50’s,” said Gross. “I was thirsty, and my thirst was quenched at Drew. The classes were rich, the faculty was strong, and the students were amazing. I think you can be creative with the knowledge that this degree brings to you and do interesting and important things.”

The group offered advice to future students.

“Say yes to every opportunity, as it creates connections and learning opportunities,” said Gross. “You can present yourself as an asset with this degree to a hospital, even without a clinical background.”

“Let go of any preconceived notions of what you think health care is, or what you think health care should be, and then you can really start to explore all of the opportunities of where health care can go,” said Vieira.

“Recognize that every moment in your education is a gift,” said Eisenberg.

“Merel is a gift, sustaining and expanding the program,” replied Bertolini. 

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