Units of Study to choose from


Students can choose any unit of study of interest to them from across the University, provided they obtain permission (usually by email) from the unit’s teacher and from the Coordinator, . We can arrange for the study of almost all units of study by distance learning.

Students are restricted to postgraduate units of study only.

We expect that medical humanities students may be particularly interested in units of study offered by the Masters in Bioethics program.

Units of study offered in Medical Humanities


There are many different medical humanities electives to choose from. Because student numbers are not large enough to run them every year, they are usually offered biannually, or in response to student demand. They include:

MMHU69 Medicine in Antiquity
A single semester 6 credit point unit of study exploring medicine in the ancient world. This unit allows unique hands on learning through the Nicholson Museum. A major component is a trip to archaeological sites in Syria and Jordan led by renowned archaeologist Professor John Tidmarsh. Definitely scheduled for semester 2, 2011. Book now to secure your place.

MMHU6902 Independent Study
This unit provides an opportunity for approved candidates to pursue an extended project of their own under supervision.

MMHU6905 Medicine and Music
This unit examines the links between medicine and music, through substantive topics and exposure to different intellectual and methodological approaches drawn from the humanities and social sciences. Areas for discussion include music and well-being; music and healing; the psychological and physiological basis of music appreciation ; the place and role of music therapy.

MMHU6906 Bodies on Display: Medicine, Museums, Art This single semester unit of study examines how the body has been represented in the convergent spaces of medicine and art. The unit includes fieldwork with 6 museums on campus. In this course students will consider how and why the human body has been displayed and represented as an object of knowledge, art, and entertainment.

MMHU6908 Dignity
Dignity is usually regarded as being a core human value in medicine, with patients finding loss of dignity one of the most challenging aspects of the experience of critical illness. Modelled on regular retreats held by medical humanities institutions overseas, this unit explores the sensory, embodied, conceptual, historical and philosophical components of dignity through expert-led conversations, academic research and the creative arts.

HPSC4102 History of Medicine
This unit of study will explore the history of medicine from ancient times to the present. Students will explore the impact of epidemics on societies and vice versa, trace the development of public health and medical professionalization, and critically examine the conditions for medical innovation and the development of medical knowledge.

PSYC5012 Health Communication: Risks, Decisions
The aim of this unit of study is to develop an understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of health and risk communication both in the individual doctor-patient consultation and the wider policy response to health risks in the community. Students will develop a critical awareness of the importance of communication in different health care contexts. This understanding will enable them to contribute to effective health communication in different settings, including the community, hospital and policy settings. In this unit of study, students will be introduced to theories of health communication, including patient-centred care and models of decision-making. Students will review the evidence for the impact of communication on patient and health professional outcomes. They will be introduced to research and interaction analysis methods used to evaluate health communication and apply these to transcripts from real medical consultations. They will examine communication in particularly challenging situations such as gaining informed consent to clinical trials, introducing aversive and complex procedures and communicating with people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Students will examine challenges and strategies in communicating risk and prognosis to patients facing life-threatening illnesses. Students will also be introduced to the trajectory of, and policy responses to, public health risk events. They will identify models of resolution and communication strategies which optimise outcomes after health risk events and develop their own case study of risk communication during a health risk event. Co-taught: Professor Phyllis Butow and Dr Claire Hooker

HSTY6988 Contagion: History and Culture
In this unit we will examine the history of infectious disease and other phenomena considered contagious, and their management. With case-studies drawn from the early modern to the last modern period, and from the western and colonial worlds, we will examine medical, governmental, artistic and cultural responses to diseases such as leprosy, smallpox, plague, tuberculosis, malaria, syphilis and HIV/AIDS. Methods of analysis will be drawn from history, anthropology, sociology and the study of culture.

RLST6951 Spirituality, Consumerism and Health This unit examines the way in which concepts of health and spirituality are often interrelated and represented in popular culture. This includes examining the alternative health industry and its interrelationship with various spiritual traditions (East and West) and consumer ideologies. Significant attention will be given to the analysis of diverse media forms (print and online). It also considers popular ethical discourse on the interrelationship of health and ecology; the reciprocal relationships of healing of self and planet; green consumerism, eco-villages and concepts of 'healthy' communities. Lecturer: Dr Jay Johnson. Includes a 2 day intensive on spirituality and medicine.

External Electives


Students can choose any unit of study of interest to them from across the University, provided they obtain permission (usually by email) from the unit’s teacher and from the Coordinator, Claire Hooker. Students are restricted to postgraduate units of study only – sorry!

Here are examples of electives undertaken and enjoyed by students in the past.

Biomedicine and Society (BETH5103) – from the Bioethics Program, CVELiM

Death, Dying and Mourning (SCWK6944) – from the Graduate Certificate in Palliative Care, Department of Social Work

History of Science (HPSC4102) – Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Writing the Past (HSTY6987) – Department of History

Key Issues in Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS6911) – Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

Leadership in Medicine (PMED5051) – Faculty of Medicine

Natures and Cultures of Bodies (GCST5902) – Department of Gender and Cultural Studies

Further information about electives


Postgraduate Handbook

Unit of Study Handbook

Faculty of Arts Postgraduate Coursework Units of Study

Faculty of Science Postgraduate Coursework Units of Study

Faculties of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy Postgraduate Coursework Units of Study

Sydney Bioethics Program

Unit of the History and Philosophy of Science

Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies

Departments and Schools of the University