MD-MA in Bioethics and Medical Humanities

Baxter Biomedical Research BuildingThe rapid rate of scientific, technological, legal, and cultural change in today’s world makes a broad education in bioethics and medical humanities more desirable than ever. Polls demonstrate that Americans most frequently criticize their doctors for "not getting to know me" and "not spending enough time with me." What happened to doctors' ability to talk to patients? What happened to humane qualities in medicine?

These are the issues that the dual degree program intends to tackle.

The MD-MA program combines the medical school curriculum with the Interdisciplinary Master of Arts in Bioethics and Medical Humanities, a professional degree intended to provide graduates with an enriched ethical knowledge base, preparing them to work in clinical or hospital settings, and to undertake scholarly research or teach in the field of bioethics and medical humanities.

The program will enhance your contextual experience within their primary professional field, in this case, medicine. Degree holders may participate in hospital ethics committees, teach medical ethics and humanities, understand the interaction of religion/spirituality and medicine, or be equipped to interpret issues in bioethics to the general public and the media.

Those students entering the program with a theoretical base will gain the tools to apply theory to real-world problems. Those entering with hands-on experience will gain the theoretical underpinnings for careful analysis of real-world problems.

Core courses will be drawn from philosophy and medicine, with electives available from the Schools of Law, Medicine, Public Health and Information Sciences, and Social Work, as well as the Arts & Sciences departments of History, Pan-African Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Sociology, and Women’s and Gender Studies. This breadth offers students a significant degree of flexibility to pursue their personal areas of interest and broaden their expertise beyond their core knowledge base.


The Interdisciplinary Master of Arts in Bioethics and Medical Humanities is a 33 credit-hour program, consisting of seven required core courses and four electives.

The core courses provide essential grounding in ethical theory and the foundations of bioethics, current controversies in health care ethics, and the social and political context of health care decision-making; participation in hospital rounds emphasizes the practical realities of clinical ethics, and a capstone seminar integrates program courses with each other and with students’ experience in the health care professions.

Electives from the Schools of Law, Medicine, Public Health, and Social Work, as well as from the Arts and Sciences departments of History, Pan-African Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Sociology, and Women’s and Gender Studies round out and diversify the content of the program. We anticipate that our initial offerings will soon be broadened into the areas of English, Communication, and Spirituality.

MD-MA students are expected to complete the dual degree program in five years.  Dual degree students will meet the MA program's 4 course/12 credit hour elective requirement with the following coursework:

  • An elective in Year 2 of the MA program
  • Introduction to Clinical Medicine 1 and 2 in the MD degree will be counted for 3 credits toward the MA and will fulfill an elective in the MA program
  • The second year, second semester elective in the MD degree will be increased to 3 credits from the current 2, with adjustment based on increased effort and time
  • The MD-MA student will complete the elective obligation by either a 3 credit summer elective that is applicable to the MA program or by completing an Independent Study elective with MA (or other designated) faculty between the end of Year 2 of the MD/MA split years and the re-entry of the student into Medical School Second Year.

The schedule is as follows:

Year 1

Summer:  Medical School Orientation

Fall:  Gross Anatomy;  Neurosciences;  Foundations of Bioethics; Gender, Race & Culture

Spring:  Human Physiology;  Neurosciences;  Ethical Theory;  Current Controversies

Year 2

Summer:  MA Elective [Optional -- may be taken in summer of Year 2 or Year 3]

Fall:  Microstructure & Development;  Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM1);  Clinical Ethics;  Elective

Spring:  Biochemistry;  Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM1);  Health Care, Community & Justice;  Integrative Bioethics

Year 3

Summer:  MA Elective [Optional -- may be taken in summer of Year 2 or Year 3]

Fall/Spring:  MD Second Year

Year 4

Summer (by June 15):  MD Step One Board Exams

Summer (May-late June):  open to refresh clinical skills

Summer (late June)/Fall/Spring:  Medical  School third year

Year 5

Medical School Fourth Year

Admission to the MD-MA degree program is open to any prospective or first year medical student in good standing attending the University of Louisville School of Medicine.  Enrollment in the MA portion of the curriculum is contingent upon satisfactory completion of the first year of Medical School.

Required application materials:

  • A Graduate School Application (see the Graduate Admissions Web Site)
  • A non-refundable $50 application fee
  • A CV or resume
  • Two letters of recommendation addressing your interest in Bioethics and Medical Humanities
  • A personal statement that addresses the question: "Why have you decided to pursue an MA in bioethics?" and does not exceed 500 words.


Phone: 502-852-6501
Fax: 502-852-7142

501 East Broadway, Suite 270
Louisville, KY 40202

Website: MA in Interdisciplinary Studies - Bioethics and Medical Humanities