Sirridge lecturer explores different approach to health humanities

Sandy Sufian, Ph.D., an associate professor of health humanities and history at the University of Illinois School of Medicine, discussed a different approach to medical humanities as the keynote speaker for the UMKC School of Medicine’s 2022 William and Marjorie Sirridge Lectureship on March 31.

Sufian specializes in the history of medicine and disability, teaching courses on the history of disability and the modern history of medicine and public health to medical students, Ph.D. students and undergraduate students. She spoke on a concept she devised called the portrait approach to health humanities.

Speaking in a virtual setting, Sufian said her program was developed with the idea that training in the health professions should be more deliberately tied to the contextual and ethical aspects of patient illness experiences, which requires a critical examination of storytelling.

“The aim is to cultivate in trainees the contextual and structural competency skills necessary to acknowledge and understand the broad pattern that impinges upon the illness experience, structures the clinical encounter and influences diagnosis and treatment,” Sufian said.

She said the curriculum she has employed at the University of Illinois broadens the scope of what is traditionally considered medical humanities to include a critical examination of what illness and disability entails.

The Sirridge Lecture is named for William T. Sirridge, M.D., and his wife, Marjorie S. Sirridge, M.D., two of the UMKC School of Medicine’s original docents who viewed the humanities as an essential part of students’ medical training.