Susan D. Block (Harvard Medical School)
Freshman Seminar 71O 4 credits (spring term) Enrollment: Limited to 12
Note: If circumstances permit, additional field learning opportunities (e.g., participation in hospital-based teaching rounds) will also be available outside of class.
Sickness and death are universal human experiences. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this reality home, in many difficult ways, to all of us over the past 2 years, thinking about our own losses and vulnerability and that of people we love is often uncomfortable. This terrible year has also created many opportunities for us to grow, as individuals and as a society. Building on our collective experiences of the past year, we will explore our own perspectives and experiences with serious illness and death; examine the vulnerabilities in our health system and our society that also contribute to the challenges in dealing with serious illness and death, and seek to process these perspectives and experiences as a way of learning to live a more meaningful life, strengthening relationships, helping us be better caretakers of people we love, and of people whom we serve in a professional role. We will use our experiences and observations during the COVID-19 pandemic as one source of data to inform a larger understanding of how humans deal with loss and vulnerability by examining, from multiple perspectives, the social, cultural, psychological, economic, and spiritual factors that influence the experience of serious illness. The seminar will draw on core readings from the humanities, social sciences, and medicine, including numerous readings related to COVID-19 to deepen understandings of how people experience and live and die with a serious illness. Opportunities for discussion, reflection, live interviews, case analysis, and experiential exercises will take place in class.