Health-related Courses

Embrace the Liberal Arts

Preparing for health professions in a liberal arts setting like Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s provides a multi-disciplinary perspective. The courses listed here are not prerequisites for any of our pre-professional programs – but they all can serve to expand your understanding of health and healthcare.

Course Descriptions

The Art of Healing is taught by Tod Worner, an adjunct biology faculty member who is an internist at Allina Health in the Twin Cities and is involved in the medical training of students and residents of the University of Minnesota medical school. The Art of Healing draws from over two decades of his experience in medical practice as well as centuries of literary, philosophical, and theological works to explore the vocation of being a clinician. From G.K. Chesterton to Flannery O’Connor, from William Shakespeare to Jane Austen, students explore the complexity of the human condition and the role of a clinician in helping others find a fulfilling existence even in face of disease and terminal clinical conditions. Now is the time to ignite the deeper sense of vocation in those aspiring to a career in health care (MD, RN, PA, NP, PT, OT, etc.) or in those simply interested in finding enduring meaning in the career they will pursue.

Course objectives:

English 206/207 is a yearlong creative writing course for pre-health science majors. Students participate in a sustained clinical experience, delivering creative writing sessions to a clinical population, while developing their own writing lives. This course helps students increase their capacity for working with ambiguity (moral, creative and narrative), while helping them see “patients” as people who are not defined by their diseases. Additionally, this course helps future clinicians learn to communicate with precise imagery and metaphors, while revealing connections between the practice of medicine and the arts of poetry and fiction.

This course examines the challenges and solutions to contemporary health care in countries across the world, from Europe and the Americas to Asia and Africa. The course will focus on various parts of the United States’ health care system in comparison with that of the United Kingdom, Canada, Austria, Australia, Botswana, Japan, and others, with guest speakers from some of those countries. We examine how national health systems were shaped by different political, historical, cultural and socio-economic traditions and the political, social, and economic consequences of each system.

The Dark Side of Science is taught by Cyprian Weaver, OSB. Cyprian is an accomplished scientist in the biomedical sciences (neuroscience and neuroendocrinology). He has been a PI on several NIH grants and most recently worked at the Lillehei Heart Institute at the University of Minnesota Medical School. Cyprian has long been interested in the rising need for accountability in the conduction of experimental science, and an awareness of the slippery slope of abuse that can arise in the practice of scientific investigation and data collection particularly in the use of human subjects.

In this course Cyprian addresses how in the past the eagerness to promote scientific advancement, came with a questionable if not inhumane price. He brings to the table a sobering yet optimistic realization that science and the performance of experimental science brings with it a heavy responsibility and accountability to the public it serves and to the very field it represents. Many have come to assume science to be invincible and conducted in an unassailable morally neutral environment, but with the military–industrial–technological–university–medical–pharmaceutical complex funding and fueling so much of science, the assumption is untenable. We need to educate students so that they can assume a more responsible attitude of themselves, if they choose to become involved in science, or as informed citizens that can better assess and judge science’s obligation to the citizens and society that it serves. 

  1. Ethics, Racism, and Scientific Discovery
  2. Nazi Medicine
  3. Nazi Medicine: Aktion T4
  4. Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis
  5. Stateville Penitentiary Malaria Experiments
  6. Lobotomy and Psychosurgery, Electroconvulsive therapy
  7. Thalidomide: The Tragedy of Birth Defects
  8. Eugenics, Henrietta Lacks

A comprehensive overview of the evidence-based recommendations for diet and nutrition in the promotion of optimal health status and prevention of chronic disease. Dietary patterns and the role of genomics in health and disease will be examined. Diet and nutrition recommendations for the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, and obesity will be emphasized.

Exploring Medicine is a course designed for students interested in the health professions, particularly students seeking a career as a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner. Students will study some of the systems of the body and learn the pathophysiology and treatment of a variety of human diseases and conditions. In addition, we will delve deeply into discussions of social aspects that influence health and the business of medicine. The purpose of this course is to help students see the relevance of their basic sciences, to be better prepared for the MCAT, to help students prepare for medical school, and help them to be a step ahead in their decision to pursue a career in medicine.

Course Objectives:
  1. Apply basic science to clinical medicine
  2. Describe how the body maintains homeostasis 
  3. Explain the concepts of diagnosis and treatment of disease
  4. Reveal an understanding of health insurance, physician billing, budgeting, and more regarding the business of medicine

Exploring Medicine is taught by Steve Jameson, M.D., Emergency Department, St. Cloud Hospital.

Exploring Medicine: Social Determinants of Health is a course designed for students interested in the health professions, particularly students seeking a career as a medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner. In order to be a doctor (or other medical provider) you need to learn to think like a doctor, and this course will introduce a whole new set of exciting new clinical experiences. In the fashion of Exploring Medicine, we will go to the bedside of actual patients and review actual clinical cases. In this course, however, there will be a greater focus on the social determinants of health and aspects of wellness that are affected by elements beyond what we do as medical providers. Though we cannot directly control all obstacles to patient wellness, being aware of these encumbrances will allow us to better serve our patients and engage proper available resources. The purpose of this course, then, is to help students see the relevance of their basic sciences, be better prepared for the MCAT, be better prepared for medical school, and be a step ahead in their decision to pursue a career in medicine.

Course Objectives:
  1. Apply basic science knowledge and skills to clinical medicine
  2. Describe how the body maintains homeostasis
  3. Explain the concepts of diagnosis and treatment of disease
  4. Reveal an understanding of social issues that determine health and wellness, and how the US compares to countries around the world in providing quality healthcare

Exploring Medicine is taught by Steve Jameson, M.D., Emergency Department, St. Cloud Hospital.

This course explores global health from a historical perspective. It examines global health challenges within a larger historical, cultural, political, and economic framework. This course will cover a wide range of health challenges from a variety of cultural and geographic contexts. We will examine a number of diseases – both infectious and non-communicable – through case studies in different parts of the world. Topics include gender inequality, maternal and child health, humanitarian aid, and the bioethics of global health practices. The course emphasizes the numerous political, economic, structural and cultural forces that lead to the unequal distribution of disease globally.

This upper division Nutrition course will allow students to build upon fundamental concepts of nutrition and apply them to real-world applications in the context of global health. Food security, the burden and origins of disease, social economic status, policy, education, and natural disasters all impact nutrition globally and will be emphasized.

This course will survey various models of the mind-body interaction as related to physical health. Topics may include psychoneuroimmunology, the role of stress on mental and physical health, psychosomatic disorders, behavioral medicine, and the psychology of illness and wellness.

This course explores the communication about cultural health beliefs and practices, particularly within the biomedical system. In addition, the course examines health disparities in the U.S.A. and how communication contributes to, but also may help alleviate, them. Some topics include: traditional health beliefs among Latinx, Asian, African, and Native American cultures; and relationship between health disparities and race/ethnicity, socioeconomic class, obesity, and differing abilities. Students will complete a variety of analysis papers related to the course topics.

Introduction to Narrative Practice develops creative-writing skills in service of students’ professional pursuits. Applying skills from creative-writing to their future careers—in medicine, business, organizing, or law—allows students to explore their own imaginative lives, their community’s health, and effective leadership to benefit their current communities as well as future colleagues, clients, and patients. This course employs community-based experiential learning in a clinical setting to meaningfully connect narrative practices to systems change beyond the classroom.

Medical anthropology seeks to understand human health and wellbeing, the experience and distribution of illness, and methods of healing across cultures. While illness and health are universal concepts, the specific conditions that lead to illness and health, and the understanding of what these various states do to one’s body and one’s spirit, vary greatly. In our biomedically-oriented society, we often take for granted the various ways that culture, political economy, social structures, religion, and environment impact health. In this course, we explore the cultural variations that exist in the ways people experience, diagnose, and treat illnesses. We will cover a variety of topics from childhood disease and stress to medical travel and pharmaceutical marketing. The course readings will be rooted in ethnographic inquiry – that is, we will read about the lived experiences of people seeking health and healing, the methods anthropologists use to collect such data, and the theories that help us explain them. Course readings include a graphic novel about medical promise, an ethnography about Malawian medical students, and numerous case studies from all over the world that will bring us closer to understanding the various and complex ways people experience health, illness, and healing.

The word “professional” today connotes an individual with well-developed skills, specialized knowledge, and expertise, who conforms to the standards of a profession. The original meaning of “professional” as one who “makes a profession of faith” in the face of demanding circumstances has been all but lost in the medical profession. This class will use the burgeoning literature of medicine, written by, for, and about medical professionals, in order to explore the full range of “professional” challenges facing today’s medical professionals.

The practice of medicine is rife with ethical dilemmas. By exploring the efforts of medical professionals to counter the institutional forces that constrain them and to find their own solid ground to stand upon, this course aims to cultivate the habit of moral reflection in future medical professionals. Although this course will primarily focus on the experiences of medical doctors, it should also be of interest to those aspiring to other medical and non-medical careers.

The course has the following characteristics. The course will be based on reading many works from a talented group of authors in the genre of “the literature of medicine.” Reading excellent writing is an important step toward developing excellence in writing. The materials are highly discussable and should produce lively conversations about very important topics. Finally, by encouraging students to see their role as change agents, this course should contribute to the “professional” development of our students as individuals who are unwilling to accept the unacceptable status quo in medical care today. Rather than conform to the standards of the profession, these students, when at their best in this course, will challenge each other to cure the ills plaguing our medical care system.

This course promises to create stronger candidates for medical school and other graduate schools in the health fields by increasing students’ familiarity with the literature of medicine. This course offers students the opportunity to discuss these weighty issues with other future health professionals.

Contemporary global health inequalities and organizations are not new, but rather have their roots in colonial medicine and development programs from the 19th and 20th centuries. In this course, we will look at the connections between imperial power dynamics, the history of medicine, and global health structures in Africa, Asia, and the Western Hemisphere. We will examine both how science and medicine were used as “tools of empire” during the course of European and American imperial conquest, as well as how subject populations resisted, co-opted, and transformed Western medical knowledge. We will pay special attention to how constructions of gender, race, and ethnicity intersected in cross-cultural medical encounters, informing clinical practice and shaping public health policies. Some topics will include: the relationship between colonial medical interventions and the spread of epidemics, how imperial health policies created and sustained structures of inequality, and the ways in which understandings of race, gender, and difference have affected health initiatives across borders. This course is suitable for students in any major.

Study of nutrition and human growth and development including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence, adulthood, and aging. Physiological, psychological, and chronic degenerative conditions associated with aging and related nutritional implications are examined. An epidemiological approach is utilized to examine relationships between diet, disease, and health status; implications for public health policy; and existing federal, state, and community programs.