Women’s Health: Views from Literature, Communities, and Clinical Medicine

INSTITUTION: Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine

PRESENTER: Delese Wear, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Behavioral Sciences; Associate Director, Women and Medicine Program PROGRAM DIRECTOR: Martin Kohn, Ph.D., Director of the Human Values in Medicine Program (email: mfk@neoucom.EDU)

ENROLLMENT: BS/MD; selective; limit: 12

SEMESTER: Spring 2000

LEARNING GOALS: To study selected issues in women’s health from interdisciplinary perspectives, and to appreciate the different kinds of knowledge arising from each.



Session 1: Introduction and Birth

Introduction: Why are we here? Why study medicine from “nonmedical” perspectives? What does literature in particular say to medical practice? How are issues concerning women’s health differentially portrayed across different domains?

Discussion of readings:

Broyard: “Good Books About Being Sick”

Bohjalian: Midwives

Panel: Nurse-midwives and ob/gyn discuss midwifery


Session 2: Breast Cancer

Discussion of readings:

Yalom: “The Medical Breast: Life-Giver and Life-Destroyer,” “The Liberated Breast: Politics, Poetry         and Pictures”

Ostriker: “The Bridge,” “The Gurney,” “Riddle: Post-Op,” “Mastectomy,” “What Was Lost,”         “December 31,” “Wintering,” “Normal,” “Epilogue”

Henderson-Holmes: “Snapshots of Grace”

Matuschka: “Barbie Gets Breast Cancer”

Butler & Rosenblum: “Living in My Changing Body,” “Living in an Unstable Body”

Panel: Women who have had breast cancer


Session 3: Body Image

Video: Slim Hopes

Discussion of readings:

Houston: “Out of Habit, I Start Apologizing”

Sparks: “Skanks”

Quindlen: “Happy 35th birthday, Barbie”

Yalom: “Fat Lady”

Video: Welcome to the Doll House


Session 4: Motherhood & Abortion

Discussion of readings:

Brooks: “The Mother”

Clifton: “the lost baby poem”

Selzer: “Abortion”

Walker: “The Abortion”

Massad: “Healers”

Hemingway: “Hills Like White Elephants”

Lessig: The Fifth Child

Video: When Abortion Was Illegal

Silent Scream


Session 5: Domestic Violence

Discussion of reading:

Quindlen: Black and BlueVideo: Defending Our Lives


Session 6: Infertility/Reproductive Technologies

Discussion of readings:

Cherry: “What I Don’t Tell People”

Bruce: “A Valediction in the Waiting Room”

Shacochis: “Missing Children”

Janowitz: “Bringing Home Baby”

Bialosky: “Ex Utero”

Guest speaker: Dixie Benshoff, Ph.D: psychological impact of infertility on women & couples

Bryan Hecht, M.D.: reproductive technologies

Video: Secrets and Lies


Session 7: Family Violence

Discussion of readings:

Allison: Bastard out of CarolinaVideo: Bastard out of Carolina


Session 8: Menopause & Aging

Discussion of readings:

Appel: “Meaning Menopause”

Clifton: “to my last period”

Clifton: “poem to my uterus”

Wells: “Blood Stop”

McCann: “Forty-Five”

LeGuin: “The Space Crone”

Levertov: “A Woman Alone”

Piercy: “The Watch”

Piercy: “Something to Look Forward To”

Video: Harold and Maude

Wrap up/evaluation



1. Outside of class, students are required to visit/attend/observe the following providers of health care in community settings which usually takes place in the evening:

Planned Parenthood of Bedford (first trimester abortions)

a counseling session for batterers

Every effort will be made to place students in sites closest to their homes.


2. Write a reflective response (no more than one page) to be turned in at the beginning of each class that chronicles your reactions (not simply a retelling) to the readings and the community/clinical experiences when applicable. First entry due at the first class meeting. 3. Write a paper that ties together this interdisciplinary month using one of the topics. At the heart of this paper will be an elaboration of how understandings are differentially produced across different domains. For example, how do literary portrayals of abortion differ from what you know clinically about the procedure and what you witnessed in the Planned Parenthood clinic? What kind of knowledge arose out of each of those experiences for you? How did each affect you? Which portrayal/experience was most “trustworthy” for you? 3-5 pages, typed

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