Reshaping post-pandemic health care emphasis of latest HumIn Focus episode

April 16, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — COVID-19 has provided a stress test for, and laid bare many of the inequities that exist within, the American healthcare system. Reshaping the system post-pandemic should include innovative approaches in practitioner training that, along with science, place greater emphasis on empathy and human relationships — training that will benefit healthcare providers and patients alike.

These topics and the pandemic’s impact on the healthcare system today and moving forward is the focus of “Rethinking Care: Health Humanities and the Pandemic,” which will debut on WPSU-TV and stream simultaneously at at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 18.

“Rethinking Care” is the latest installment in the HumIn Focus series created by the Penn State Humanities Institute and produced by WPSU. The Humanities Institute created the series in 2018 in an effort showcase the social value of humanities research and to spark dialogue between humanities scholars and members of the community on topics of pressing social importance. Confederate monuments, immigration, and the complexities of American democracy were the focal points of the series’ first three episodes.

In addition to noting existing inequities within the healthcare system that have been exacerbated during the pandemic, “Rethinking Care” examines the toll that overwork, burnout and stoicism have had on healthcare providers and provides suggestions for addressing those issues moving forward.

“Health education and policy is more than science; it involves narrative, personal connection, ethics, and community building,” said John Christman, director of the Humanities Institute and Penn State professor of philosophy, political science, and women’s studies. “These are elements uniquely studied and developed by the humanities, and their value is only heightened in a pandemic.”

Matt Jordan, Penn State associate professor of media studies and executive producer of HumIn Focus, added, “The all-too-human response of people to the pandemic has made it clear that we need to expand the notion of healthcare beyond training doctors how to respond to particular disease processes. We need to re-imagine healthcare as an ongoing enterprise that focuses on human relationships and emphasizes our inter-connectedness and mutual dependence.”

“Rethinking Care” also highlights the importance of humanities training for health professionals and features several faculty from the Penn State College of Medicine’s Department of Humanities talking about the important topic. Penn State was the first higher education institution to establish a humanities program within its medical school.

A panel discussion featuring faculty interviewed for “Rethinking Care” is scheduled to occur in May. That discussion, as well as current and previous episodes of HumIn Focus, can be found online at

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 16, 2021