BSHS Selectives 2023-2024
Selectives Type:  Medical Humanities

Selective Title
Narratives of Skin Diseases (BSHS Credit)
Course Number
DERU 4012
Prerequisites: Successful completion of all Year 3 requirements
Responsible Faculty Director:
Richard Wagner, MD
Other Faculty:
Contact Information Coordinator: Reynol Lopez (
Periods Offered
including holiday period 8
Maximum Enrollment

Learning Objectives
Skin diseases represent some of the most frequent clinical diagnoses and account for many work-related disability in the United States. Disfigurement of the face and other exposed skin are a major morbidity of many skin diseases and their treatment. Students taking this course will develop a greater understanding about and empathy for the impact of different types of skin diseases from the assigned texts written by people who wrote narrative texts about their personal experiences with skin diseases (leprosy, albinism, vitiligo, and skin cancer). Each week of this virtual seminar, assigned texts will be reviewed and critically analyzed by the student and faculty. During the final week of the seminar, the student will read the late John Updikes two acclaimed essays about psoriasis and will write a critical comparative analysis on this topic on that is due on the last Thursday of the Period by 5 p.m. CST. The required texts for this course are: Squint: My Journey with Leprosy (Jose Ramirez, 2009, 218 pages), Turning White: A Memoir of Change (Thomas Lee, 2007, 176 pages), Too White to be Black and too Black to be White: Living with Albinism (Lee Edwards, 119 pages), Saving Face: My Victory Over Skin Cancer (Carolyn Shuck, 236 pages), From the Journal of a Leper (John Updike, 1976), and At War With My Skin (John Updike, 1985). In addition, additional background information about these skin diseases and their impact will be assigned from Linder and Kimball (2013).

All texts for this seminar are available from the Dermatology Lending Library.

Describe the qualifications background and career goals or interests of students who would benefit from the course:
Medical students who may eventually treat patients with skin diseases or disfigurement would benefit from this course. Students with specialty interests in family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, ENT, plastic surgery and dermatology may be especially interested in course content.

Description of course activities
This course requires the reading of 4 books along with assigned background articles with class preparation for critical text analysis in a seminar format each week and a 10 page original essay due on the last day of class. Each week there will be a required 2 hour seminar to discuss the required reading. Seminar participation is virtual via the teleconferencing.

Proposed time requirement (%) for the student activities per 40-hour week:
Activity Percent of Activity
Faculty contact time


Self-directed study


Data collection/analysis


Other required final essay


Method of student evaluation

Check all that apply - complete appropriate section(s) only:
1.  Grading
A. Please specify your grading criteria for outstanding performance:
  Attendance and contribution to class tutorial over required reading. Outstanding essays are submitted to the UTMB Selectives Committee for consideration of the John P. McGovern Award in Oslerian Medicine. A student taking this class during the 2020-2021 academic year received this award.

2.  Written Assignment (Homework, projects, notes, papers, abstracts, etc.)
A. Frequency of written assignment(s)
  One required written critical essay due on last Thursday of seminar by 5 p.m. CST. The final written product should be at least 10 double-spaced pages in length, not including references or figures and submitted as a pdf to
B. Type of written assignment
  Seminars or tutorials culminating in a research paper.
Basic science research plus documented written report.
Humanities, social sciences, biostatistical or epidemiological research culminating in a scholarly paper or written report.
Clinically-based written reports focusing on a basic science or humanities problem.
Journal club written reports
Grant proposals
Literature review
Oral presentation plus written report.
Other modality with a self-directed, scholarly research component culminating in a written report.
C. Format of written assignment
  A 10 page, double-spaced critical comparative essay about the impact of skin disease(s) using course texts.
D. Method of content selection (student-selected, assigned, relate to cases, etc.)
  Assignment based on required reading for course.

3.  Oral Presentation
  A. Frequency / duration of presentation(s)?
    Weekly presentations and discussion about required reading at virtual seminar.
  B. Type and format of presentation
  D. Assessment - Who assesses the student's presentation performance?
    Self-assessment   Peer assessment   Faculty assessment
  E. Method of content selection
    Student-selected topic   Assigned topic

4.  Professionalism
  What expectations do you have for the student to demonstrate participation in the elective (e.g. small group activities, seminars, thoughtful questions, providing resources, journal club, resident lecture attendance)?

The instructor will discuss principles of appropriate attribution and the referencing of literature with the student. The student is expected to understand and to adhere to the principle that all presented work must be solely the student’s own.

    The principles stated above will be discussed with the class at the first meeting (First Thursday of Period) and included in the course syllabus.

5.  Other Modes of Evaluation
  Please explain below.