Which classes are most useful to pre-med students?
The likelihood is that a common science class- biology, chemistry, or anatomy- would be your first thought.
Corina Mihaela Beleaua, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature, would like you to consider adding a literature class to that list.
Advised by Dr. Mihai Spariosu, a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature, Beleaua’s dissertation focuses on how literature texts can increase a student’s empathy.
Among other literature classes at the University, Beleaua teaches the undergraduate class, “Literature and Medicine.”
The class’ readings include texts that address the challenges physicians face in their daily practice: empathy, illness and suffering, dialogue with patients as well as colleagues, practicing medicine with few resources.
The class also covers text written from the patient’s point of view in order to consider how literature integrates the health care world from all angles.
“Future doctors should be knowledgeable, skillful, dutiful, and also altruistic, attentive, and caring; thus, they need someone or something to nurture their humanity,” says Beleaua.
“My research is meant to confirm the central role of literature in preparing future doctors for interacting with their patients, in preparing people for daily encounters.”
According to Beleaua, literature has a dialogical role in connecting people, in raising awareness, and in creating new alternatives of thought.
“In other words, literature can play the role of an essential third element in a dialogue, so as for each participant to approach the other by first paying attention to the new aura of knowledge and self-knowledge.”
Using questionnaires, Beleaua measures the impact literature classes might have on increasing students’ empathy and in reconfiguring their perception about the value of fictional texts.
“I incorporate my findings into my teaching, trying to make students aware of how impactful some texts can be.”
“My students are actively engaged in the reading process. Not only do they pay attention to the cultural and historical background of texts, but also to the life lessons that one can discern through the analysis of specific characters.”
Much like her thoughts on the role of literature in medicine, Beleaua’s classes are anything but typical.
“Through an interdisciplinary approach, we transform texts into a source of entertaining discussions, moral lessons, role-play activities, and creative activities, such as paintings, songs, and poems.”
Through these experiences, she explains how students learn to empathize with characters and find solutions to certain crisis moments, so that eventually they will be able to apply these skills in real life situations.
“By staging certain scenarios, students get the opportunity to react and offer their input and go beyond texts and characters, by finding innovative solutions that might apply to current challenges. This is how Plato’s dialogues, or 17thcentury Molière’s Imaginary Invalidare brought to life, in class.”
After graduation, Beleaua plans to continue her research by extending it at an international level and by finding more arguments that support the teaching of literature.
“For instance, a couple of months ago, I wrote an article about my research and teaching at UGA and about my Literature and Medicine Class” she says.
“The article will be published in a Romanian journal in December and will be the first step for the implementation of a national curriculum that requires the study of literature for pre-med students and STEM students in Romania.”