Select Page

Literature & Medicine

The study of history, literature, and culture helps provide a broad context for the disciplines of science and medicine. Literature in particular opens us to new worlds and allows us to bear witness to the lives of others.  For medical caregivers working in an increasingly multicultural world, literature can also offer new ways of understanding and responding to patients and their families.

“I enjoyed the evening and am looking forward to more evenings of discussion. I see only positive ripples generating outward from here.” ~ Kathy

Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care™ is an award-winning program offered by Humanities Councils in 26 states around the country, including Delaware. Begun 20 years ago in Maine, Literature & Medicine offers hospital-based, scholar-led readings and discussion groups that use works of fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fiction to explore what’s at the heart of healthcare.
Participants come from all branches of medical care, including nurses, physicians, support staff, administrators, clergy, social workers and therapists in hospitals, home health, hospice, and public health settings. Some programs also admit members of the general public.  In a study conducted at the US Veterans Administration, participants reported an 82% increase in empathy, a 61% improvement in job satisfaction, and a 59% rise in cultural awareness*.

“The readings were great and thought-provoking.  Seems like a good group of people able to dig into the texts.” ~ Tim

Since 2007, Delaware Humanities has provided Literature & Medicine programming to Delaware’s medical professionals around the state.  Over the last decade, we have partnered with BayHealth, Christiana Healthcare, and the Veterans Administration Medical Center.  From health care workers to hospital administrators to policy makers,
Literature & Medicine helps connect professionals and the patients they care for and enhances conversations and camaraderie among coworkers.

Previous titles include:

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

What Doctors Feel by Danielle Orfi

Writer, M.D. Edited by Leah Kaminsky

The Not Dead and the Saved by Kate Clanchy

How We Do Harm by Otis Webb Brawley

The Shift by Theresa Brown, RN

Do No Harm by Henry Marsh

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

If you are a medical organization or professional interested in offering a Literature & Medicine program at your facility, please contact Ciera Fisher, our Programs Officer at

Certain programs are open to the general public; however, these programs fill very quickly.  To learn more about these opportunities, contact the Programs Officer at

Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care™ was created in 1997 by the Maine Humanities Council.  If you would like to read a history of the program, check the Maine Humanties Council’s website for more information.

*Program Evaluation, Literature & Medicine Program, Healthcare Facilities, United States Department of Veterans Affairs by Dr. Bruce B. Clary, Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, 2011.