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Healing Through the Humanities

University launches new Medical Humanities degree program

Posted in: University

Jefferson Gatrall, Director of the BA in Medical Humanities program

Montclair State University will be offering a bachelor’s degree in Medical Humanities beginning in fall 2018 to examine far-ranging questions about health and illness, and to connect the hard science of modern medicine with the healing powers of art.

The program will examine personal health struggles – “what it means to have illness, what it means to care for illness and the connections between all the individuals who are affected when illness happens,” says Jeff Gatrall, director of the BA in Medical Humanities program.

Diverse subjects will include the ethics of care, patient advocacy, body image, narrative medicine, disabilities rights, medical racism, reproductive autonomy, genetic counseling, arts-based therapies, public health, health policy and the nature of death and dying.

Gatrall, who is an associate professor of Modern Languages and Literatures, was drawn to the themes of the medical humanities by way of Chekhov, the Russian playwright and physician who wrote from his clinical experience about the relationships between patients and doctors.

“This is not a vocational degree, this is a degree very much based on the humanities tradition, so students will be developing critical thinking skills, ethical decision-making skills, oral communication skills and writing skills,” Gatrall says. They will explore how different social contexts, belief systems, historical traditions and literary works shape global and national perspectives on disease and the healing arts.

Graduates of Medical Humanities programs find employment opportunities in hospitals, universities, pharmaceutical companies, nursing facilities, physicians’ offices, retirement communities, outpatient centers and with insurance carriers. A degree in Medical Humanities also prepares students for medical school and law school as well as a range of interdisciplinary PhD programs in the humanities and social sciences.

“This is a major that really encourages discovery,” Gatrall says. “By the end of the degree you’ll have become a new person who has found incredibly new interests.”

For more information, contact Gatrall at or 973-655-3409. Learn more and apply at