BSHS Selectives 2023-2024
Selectives Type:  Medical Humanities

Selective Title
Skin Diseases in Novels and Subsequent Films (BSHS Credit)
Course Number
DERU 4402
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
Course goals: Students taking this course will acquire critical analytic skills through reading novels about skin diseases: Dear John (melanoma), The First Wives Club (aging skin), Cold Mountain (albinism) and The English Patient (burn) and comparing them to their derivative films. In addition, there will be reading assignments made that relate to the skin diseases studied (epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnostic tests, differential diagnosis, and treatment) and literary and film criticism to analyze the weekly assignments. The teaching goals and learning objectives are to
1) learn about the skin diseases studied through assigned readings, movies and class discussions;
2) learn the most accurate way to describe skin disease based on the assigned readings and then reviewing author (text) descriptions and viewing the disease as it appears in its derivative film;
3) Learn about the use of skin diseases by writers and film directors on character development and plot, and the impact the inclusion of skin disease in these works may have on readers and viewers. At the conclusion of this course, participants will have greater understanding about the use of skin disease in literary fiction and in film, and the impact it may have on patients with these diseases. In addition, medical knowledge about the diseases studied and descriptive dermatology is expected to improve.

Describe the qualifications background and career goals or interests of students who would benefit from the course:
This course would benefit students interested in primary care and other specialties taking care of patients with skin diseases. Critical, analytic thought about the use of skin diseases in novels and in film is emphasized.

Description of course activities
Dr. Wagner will give a virtual introductory PowerPoint lecture about text and film criticism at the first class meeting on the first Monday of the Period. This lecture will include information about the class writing requirements (final 10 double-spaced page writing assignment). A 2 hour tutorial will meet on Thursdays during the Period each to discuss the reading and film studied. Additional assignments related to the skin disease studied and literary/film criticism techniques will be reviewed. Students will present text and film plot summaries, and the use of skin disease will be critically analyzed. They will also engage in discussion and learning about the disease epidemiology, pathophysiology, diagnostic tests, differential diagnosis, and treatment from their assigned reading about the disease, and then apply what they have learned to the character depicted with the disease in the text and film. Students will analyze the literary skin disease depiction and its context for accuracy and consistency in the book, and compare it to the visual depiction of the skin disease as portrayed in the subsequent film and its context. Differences between the text and the fill will be analyzed and their comparative impact on the characters and plot. This analytic approach is expected to improve the students’ ability to accurately describe skin disease. Students taking this class should expect to spend 40 hours of activity on the assignments and preparation for the 2-hour seminar each week. The texts selected will require a substantial time requirement, and there will be additional reading assignments that address literary and film criticism as well that will be discussed in the seminar and applied to the works studied that week. Each film should be viewed for a minimum of three times, as will be reviewed in the first class lecture. Each student will be required to keep a log of their weekly course activity and submit it each week along with their written assignment. This log is expected to accurately reflect the amount of time spent reading, researching and writing each week. A 10 page double-spaced comparative essay involving the last assignment and one of the other works studied is due electronically in pdf format to on the last Thursday of the Period by 5 p.m. CST and will be submitted to the Selective course committee as required to meet UTMBs graduation writing requirement.

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 A 10 page comparative essay (SEE BELOW)


Method of student evaluation

Check all that apply - complete appropriate section(s) only:
1.  Grading
A. Please specify your grading criteria for outstanding performance:
  Participation in seminar discussions and satisfactory completion of all writing assignment by the set deadline. Outstanding essays will be submitted to the UTMB Selectives Committee for consideration of the John P. McGovern Award in Oslerian Medicine.

2.  Written Assignment (Homework, projects, notes, papers, abstracts, etc.)
A. Frequency of written assignment(s)
  Final 10 page, double-spaced essay due at end of the Selective
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
  The final assignment is a 10 page comparative essay about the final assignment and a work studied earlier in this class. The final written product should be at least 10, double-spaced pages in length, not including references or figures.
D. Method of content selection (student-selected, assigned, relate to cases, etc.)
  The four texts and related films were selected for their skin disease content (melanoma, aging skin, albinism and burn.)

3.  Oral Presentation
  A. Frequency / duration of presentation(s)?
  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.

    Professionalism will be stressed in all course activities.

5.  Other Modes of Evaluation
  Please explain below.
    A 10 page, critical comparative essay in pdf format is due electronically to on the last Thursday of the period by 5 p.m. CST.