Advancing Pre-Health Humanities as Intensive Research Practice: Principles and Recommendations from a Cross-Divisional Baccalaureate Setting


This essay argues that pre-health humanities programs should focus on intensive research practice for baccalaureate students and provides three guiding principles for implementing it. Although the interdisciplinary nature of health humanities permits baccalaureate students to use research methods from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, pre-health humanities coursework tends to force students to adopt only one of many disciplinary identities. Alternatively, an intensive research approach invites students to critically select and combine methods from multiple (and seemingly opposing) disciplines to ask and answer questions about health problems more innovatively. Using the authors’ experiences with implementing health humanities baccalaureate research initiatives at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the authors contend that pre-health humanities programs should teach and study multiple disciplinary research methods and their values; examine how health humanities research might transfer across disciplines; and focus on mentoring opportunities for funding, presenting, and publishing research. These recommendations have the potential to create unprecedented research experiences for baccalaureate students as they prepare to enter careers within and beyond the allied health professions.

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Correspondence to Sarah Ann Singer.

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The Falls Narrative Study was funded by a Consortium for Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (UNC IRB #15-2534 / Approved 10-07-15). The Writing Diabetes Study was funded by a UNC Fostering Interdisciplinary Research Explorations (FIRE) Grant (UNC IRB #15-2483 / Approved 10-11-15).


1 For more information about the UNC Genre Project and its results (in progress), see the research team’s website:

2 For more information about the Falls Narrative Study and its results (in progress), see the research team’s website:

3 For more information about the Writing Diabetes Study, see the research team’s website: For details about the study results, see Edwell, Jennifer, Singer, Sarah Ann, and Jack, Jordynn. Forthcoming. “Healing Arts: Rhetorical Techne as Medical (Humanities) Intervention.” Technical Communication Quarterly

4 Some journals that health humanities students might be interested in include Consilence: The Journal of Sustainability Development (Columbia University), Critical Theory and Social Justice Journal of Undergraduate Research (Occidental College), Explorations (Texas A&M University), Intersections (University of Washington), Forbes & Fifth (University of Pittsburgh); Midwest Journal for Undergraduate Research (Monmouth College), Penn Bioethics Journal (University of Pennsylvania); and Young Scholars in Writing: Undergraduate Research in Writing and Rhetoric (University of Missouri-Kansas City).

5 In a recent application for funding, Mishra described the goals for the journal: “The main purpose of this journal is to inspire, encourage, and facilitate interdisciplinary thinking and collaborative work while developing and embodying a variety of ideas that relate to health, illness, caregiving, and medicine. It will strive to be a publication that allows for dialogue, meaning-making, and multiple representations of the body, health, wellness, and experiences with the medical system. The journal will serve as an opportunity for undergraduate students to publish original creative work, research, academic papers, editorials, and artwork that explore the interface between the arts and healing.” For more information, see the website for The Health Humanities Journal of UNC-Chapel Hill:

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Singer, S.A., Weed, K., Edwell, J. et al. Advancing Pre-Health Humanities as Intensive Research Practice: Principles and Recommendations from a Cross-Divisional Baccalaureate Setting. J Med Humanit 38, 373–384 (2017).

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  • Baccalaureate
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Transfer
  • Research methods
  • Health humanities lab