Student Electives

Elective Course Offerings

Elective courses are offered to MS I, II and iV students. They consist of three six-week courses directed by Professor Raphael with several medical faculty serving as instructors. Classes generally meet for 1.5 hours each week in the evenings. All are graded as Pass/Fail, with 25% of grade determined by weekly writing exercises and 75% from class attendance and participation. 

Instructors currently include Jeffrey Akman, M.D., Dean, School of Medicine and Health Sciences; Robin Doroshow, M.D. Children's National Health System;  Julia Frank, M.D., Department of Psychiatry; James Griffith, M.D., Interim Chair, Department of Psychiatry; ; Yolanda Haywood, M.D., Assistant Dean; Tom Kim, M.D., Department of Emergency Medicine, Fairfax Hospital;; Karen Lewis, Ph.D., Director, Standardized Patient Program; Adam Possner, M.D.,

Department of Internal Medicine; Katalin Roth, M.D., Department of Internal Medicine,  Scott Schroth, M.D., Dean; James Scott, M.D., Department of Emergency Medicine; Sara Wikstrom, M.D. Department of Internal Medicine; Amie Woods, M.D., Department of Emergency Medicine; 

Course 1: Doctors as Authors

Course Description: This course will offer students opportunities to explore issues that concern them as medical students and future physicians through reading and discussing literary texts. The texts include short stories, poems, and essays by doctors whose diverse experiences, points of view, and talents as writers will stimulate lively discussion and debate. 

Course 2: First-person Medicine

Course Description: “First-person Medicine” offers students opportunities to explore issues that concern them as medical students and future physicians through reading and discussion literary texts written in the first-person by patients, doctors, and caregivers. One question in particular – “whose story is this?” with regard to illness – informs many first-person narratives. The short works represent a variety of viewpoints, who bring their particular views to every text. 

Course 3: Literature and Medicine

Course Description: The course will offer students opportunities to explore issues that concern them as medical students and future physicians through reading and discussing literary texts. Some of the questions that arise from these works include: Whose story is the story of an illness? How do different genres ask us to consider the experience of an illness? What are the privileges and limits of language in expressing the experiences of pain and suffering? How are doctors portrayed in literary texts?

Course 4: Commix: Graphic Novels, Visual Art, Film, and Medicine (New for Spring 2008!)

Course Description: “The strength of the commix lies in its synthetic ability to approximate a ‘mental language’ that is closer to actual human thought than either words or pictures alone . . . for the commixture of words and images generates a triangulation of meaning – a kind of three-dimensional narrative – in the movement among words, images, and reader’s eye” (Art Spiegelman, author of MAUS and other graphic writing). Arguably a physician is involved constantly in multi-dimensional narratives; the texts in this course – graphic writings, visual arts, and film – offer ways for us to consider written, oral, and visual narratives that represent the experiences of physicians, patients, and caretakers.

Graphic texts

Session 1: Pequin, “The Walk” 

Session 2: David B., Epileptic.

Visual Arts

Session 3:

1. Henri Gervex, “Before the Operation” 

2. Frida Kahlo, “The Miscarriage” and “The Broken Column"

3. Matushka, photography and the mutilated body.


Session 4: Clips from The Doctor; When Did You Last See Your Father; and The Elephant Man.

Graphic Texts

Session 5: from Scott McCloud’s on-line collection.

Session 6: Garry Trudeau, some Doonesbury comics. Chapter from Joseph Heller, Catch 22 (a comic/satiric war novel).

Course Objectives: 

1. To refine reflective skills by reading and writing about literature related to being a medical student and a doctor.

2. To provide opportunities for students to discuss matters related to practicing medicine with doctors and with one another in an informal setting.

Course Requirements:

Attendance at all class sessions is required. This is especially important because the majority of class time will be devoted to your active discussion of readings, films, and cases. Any absences must be by permission of the instructor and are likely to require remedial work.

Weekly writing exercises are required. These must be typed and no more than one page in length. They are due on Tuesday evening (to be sent via email to the instructor of the particular session and to Professor Raphael).

Course Director: Linda S. Raphael, Ph.D.

Office: Hospital 6205 Phone: 202 994 1034