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Stony Brook University to Offer Master of Arts Program in Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics Beginning Fall 2010

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Stony Brook University to Offer Master of Arts Program in Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics Beginning Fall 2010

Program targets students from a wide range of academic disciplines and experience levels

STONY BROOK, N.Y., March 24, 2010 – A new masters program in 
Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics
 that builds on the patient-centered teaching at Stony Brook University will be offered beginning with the fall 2010 semester.  

Stephen g. post web2 1
Stephen G. Post

Named for the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics founded and directed by Stephen Post, Ph.D., the new track (pending expected SUNY approval) within the Biological Science Master of Arts Degree program will target students from a wide set of disciplines. The program will welcome both students with a B.A. degree and more seasoned professionals who can bring their real life experiences to bear on the program’s three themes. “We’d like to have good mix of people from many areas – journalism, ethics, social science, life sciences, law, public policy, religious studies” said Dr. Post. “Clinicians are all welcome. Medical students, undergrads who just finished up and want do something for a year before marching on to law school or medical school…poets, psychologists, philosophers, ministers, nurses and social workers will all find the program of great interest.” 


The Center focuses equally on the three thematic components in its title that together provide an innovative and unique education that is broader than any other program in the United States today. 


“The Center is extremely broad in the issues it addresses,” Dr. Post said. “A huge issue today, for example, is that doctors aren’t being trained well enough to be compassionate, to be engaged in the art of healing. The whole dynamic of emotional intelligence and compassion is so important for patient adherence, patient outcome, for physician satisfaction, yet when you ask many people in U.S. about their experience in the health care system, they say they feel dehumanized. It’s the loss of real care in the basic sense that is currently the single most pressing concerning of clinicians as well as of patients. ” 


The 30-credit masters program, which can be completed in one to three years, will stress those same three core areas, including medical humanities as a way to allow students to envision the experience of an illness subjectively as articulated through short stories and poetry. 


“Our program gives students a sense of what it means to be ill, and that is important,” Dr. Post said. “We don’t want students just looking at patients as biological puzzles only. We want students asking the right kinds of questions. When professionals make that personal connection you get better health outcomes. Patients who feel cared about will usually divulge much more information without having to be probed for it. They will offer facts and details and that contribute to a clearer diagnostic conclusion. There is a strong new science that clinical outcomes are improved when patients feel people around them care about them.” 


SBUMC’s work in teaching medical humanities, compassionate care and bioethics to medical students predated the establishment of the Center and has evolved into one of the nation’s top programs in those areas, said Dr. Post. 


“It’s the most extensive and wide-reaching curriculum of these three areas anywhere in the country. When people think of the top several medical schools in the country teaching in these areas, Stony Brook is right up at the top,” he said. “It’s a tribute to Stony Brook that even in these difficult economic times, they were so committed to enhancing a program that was really worth strengthening.” 


Dr. Post is a pioneering scholar who has conducted landmark studies in the relationship between altruism, happiness and health, as well as in ethics, religious thought and behavioral medicine. He arrived at Stony Brook in 2008 from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, where he was for two decades Professor of Bioethics, Family Medicine, and Philosophy & Religious Studies in the School of Medicine, and Senior Scholar in the Becket Institute at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford University. 


Dr. Post is a Senior Fellow in the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, and a Senior Advisor for the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. His research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Post has appeared widely on television programs such as Nightline and 20/20. 


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