Medical Humanities Expert Earns Teaching Award

Jane Thrailkill, associate professor of English, has been chosen UNC’s honoree for the annual Award for Excellence in Teaching given by the UNC System Board of Governors.

Thrailkill is one of 17 recipients nominated by special committees on each of the system’s campuses and selected by a BOG committee.

She is being recognized for her commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and scholarship and her leadership in the medical humanities field.

Shortly after joining UNC’s English department in 2000, Thrailkill developed a series of interdisciplinary medical humanities classes, including Doctors and Patients, which examines the nature of the relationship between healers and those who are ill. She also collaborated with Honors Carolina to create an undergraduate minor and a graduate program in literature, medicine and culture.

She is the co-founder and co-director of HHIVE lab — Health and Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Venue for Exploration — which provides undergraduate, graduate and professional students with interests in health humanities the opportunity to participate in research and outreach projects at the intersection of the arts. Thrailkill’s curricula and programs offer a better understanding of how patients interpret illness, how definitions of disease are shaped through cultural understandings, and how professionals can better reflect on their values and communicative practices.

Thrailkill is known by undergraduates for producing excellence in thinking, writing and communicating from a humanist perspective. One prospective physician said, “She laid the foundation for what I hope to be a lifelong pursuit of the medical humanities and the compassionate, humanistic practice of medicine.”

Initially on a pre-med track as an undergraduate, Thrailkill changed course and earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Amherst College, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees in English and American literature from Johns Hopkins University. Through her love of literature and interest in medicine she developed a passion for the interdisciplinary field of medical humanities.

She currently is teaching in the UNC School of Medicine as part of an interdisciplinary team of clinicians and scholars, leading seminars for medical students during clinical rotations.

She is scheduled to receive her award during Carolina’s spring graduation ceremony on May 14.


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