About HEAL

Stunning technological and biomedical advances in the health sciences have transformed the education and training of future physicians. Medical students must absorb an ever-expanding body of scientific knowledge and gain skills of life-long learning. In order to foster attentive and compassionate physicians who are well versed in both the science and the art of medicine, it is incumbent upon medical schools to incorporate study of the arts and humanities into their core curricula. Through deliberative engagement in these fields, Keck School of Medicine students are encouraged to explore ethical decision-making, cultural differences in worldview and the complexities of the interpretive act — the multiple ways of knowing — that are essential to the effective practice of the healing arts.

Keck School of Medicine’s HEAL Program, with its emphasis on humanities, ethics, economics, art and law, promotes each student’s professional formation and exploration of his or her own values and motivations for pursuing the calling of medicine. The four-year curriculum teaches future doctors how to reflect on patients as whole beings, not just as injuries or illnesses to be treated. It begins with personal reflection through autobiographical essay writing and self-evaluation, and it helps students develop interpretive skills — for example, by integrating the arts through structured museum or gallery visits. The curriculum moves on to examine the role of the physician in society through course work on ethics and medical humanities and through electives that include Narrative Medicine, Law and Medicine, and the History of Medicine.

Program Goals

In the service of fostering the narrative competence of medical students, this integrated four-year curriculum will:

  • Create a community of discourse as an essential component of professional formation and clinical practice
  • Provide longitudinal, integrated instruction in health care ethics and ethical decision-making
  • Provide longitudinal, integrated instruction in health care policy, economics and the business of medicine
  • Foster the capacity to analyze policy in light of the economic, legal, social and ethical dimensions of health care
  • Develop knowledge, attitudes and skills needed to participate in a systems-based approach to medical practice and promotion of patient safety
  • Stimulate imagination, curiosity, skills of close observation, and careful interpretation through engagement with the arts and humanities
  • Encourage empathy for patients and colleagues
  • Promote critical reflection on experience and its meaning

Extracurricular Program in Medical Humanities, Arts and Ethics

A rich array of “extracurricular” activities in humanities and the arts is available to KSOM students:

  • Hoyt Art Gallery, exhibiting student and faculty art, as well as the work of artist-patients whose work aligns with the Year I-II curriculum; curated by KSOM’s Artist-in-Residence, Ted Meyer
  • Life drawing classes
  • Synaesthesia, the Keck School of Medicine’s literature and art publication
  • Keck Music Society, featuring student-musician performances in multiple venues on the Health Sciences Campus in conjunction with KSOM’s Musician-in-Residence, Zora Mihailovich
  • Narrative Medicine workshops
  • Arts and Humanities Lunch & Learn lecture series
  • Lingual Verve reading group
  • Styloid Process writing group
  • Medical Humanities Student Interest group
  • Visions and Voices events


Pamela Schaff, MD
Program Director
(323) 442-1763

Thuy Le
Administrative Assistant, HEAL Program
(626) 457-6613

Jasmine Serrano
Program Assistant, KSOM Curriculum Office
(323) 442-1763