Health Humanities Initiative

Bringing academics, clinicians, caregivers and students together to address grand social challenges in areas of health and healthcare.



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Transcending the boundaries of health

Health and the practices of medicine are crucial areas where STEM fields cannot fully address contemporary challenges without being grounded in and continually engaged with the humanities, and yet these realms of inquiry often remain separate and siloed, both on university campuses and between educational and healthcare institutions. The ASU Health Humanities Initiative seeks to transcend these disciplinary and institutional boundaries by bringing academics, clinicians, caregivers and students together to address grand social challenges in areas of health and healthcare.

With focused programming that explores strategies for promoting, sustaining, and reimagining health and resilience in individuals and communities, the initiative grew from the mission of the Institute for Humanities Research to promote transdisciplinary, publicly-engaged collaborations and projects that advance the common good. Leveraging ASU's developing partnership with Mayo Clinic in Arizona, the initiative sponsors collaborative programming and has helped to make possible the launch of the new ASU Health Humanities Certificate in 2018-19.

This kind of collaboration is unique, and has begun to establish ASU as an innovative institution in this growing interdisciplinary field. What has happened as ASU researchers and Mayo Clinic faculty and staff have come together to discuss research in areas such as history of medicine, literary and other media representations of health and illness, and bioethics, is a deep cultural shift: a move toward recognizing and re-envisioning the role of empathy, cultural and structural competency, mindfulness, and ethical judgement in all approaches to the challenges of health.

The big questions in health humanities

  • How does the human imagination construct, limit, predict and make sense of our health and its care?
  • How does our understanding of the relationships between our bodies, our minds and our environments influence our approaches to health?
  • How do we approach and assign value to human mortality?
  • What forces in history have shaped the structures and institutions of US healthcare today?
  • What stories do we tell about health, and what do these stories tell us?
  • Where can we go and how do we collaborate to seek innovative solutions to the complex, shifting challenges to health in the world today?


Imagining Health: IHR/Mayo Clinic Center for Humanities in Medicine

A growing body of evidence suggests that patient outcomes, wellness, and quality of life in medical communities are all enhanced by programs that integrate the humanities and arts into medical training and patient care. Programs that promote humanistic approaches to healthcare also benefit the wider communities that medical facilities serve by contextualizing health as a basic human need. This series of presentations and discussions will bring the Arizona State University (ASU) research and Mayo Clinic healthcare delivery communities together to develop future collaborations between the Center for Humanities in Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Arizona and the Institute for Humanities Research (IHR) at ASU.

Mayo Clinic Health Humanities ASU Partnership

Learn about more IHR Initiatives

Digital Humanities Initiative

The Nexus Digital Research Co-op aims to grow the digital humanities alongisde interdisciplinary collaborations that bring together humanities, science and technology. 

Humane Cities Initiative

Humane Cities Initiative

The Humane Cities Initiative seeks to make ASU a hub for innovative, transdisciplinary research focusing on cities that are created by and for humans.