Master of Medical Humanities

Q. What led you to the medical humanities program at Drew?
A.
I was an educator at a New York City college for nearly three decades, and I’d been looking for a program to suit my educational interest for years. Between the commute, time constraints as a full-time faculty member and programs I’d looked into in social work and thanatology, I couldn’t find the right fit. By coincidence I heard about the Drew program and things just clicked.

Q. And you have a new job, yes?
A.
My new job at Overlook Hospital is a direct outgrowth of my studies at Drew. Early on in my experience, I wanted to collaborate with the hospice I was volunteering for and Drew to present a colloquium on palliative care. The coordinator of palliative care at Overlook also was a Drew doctoral candidate. Our professional relationship grew, and that led to my connection with the hospital. Now I am the palliative care community liaison at Overlook. There is a lot of enthusiasm at the hospital for growing medical humanities practices. I was at the right place at the right time.

Q. Did your Drew courses have any bearing on your new professional direction?
A.
Absolutely, all of my courses enriched my knowledge, especially courses in ethics, medical narrative and clinical practice of medical humanities, which introduced me to a whole new world and helped me shape my new path. With each course in the program, my personal goals for professional development became more clarified.

Q. Did you ever imagine this is where the path would lead?
A.
I’d thought before I started the program that I ultimately would be working with patients and families at the end of life, which I do to some extent. However, I am using my skills from years of teaching at the college level, coupled with my new knowledge from the Drew program, to develop new educational programs at the hospital that focus on humanistic practices in medicine.

Q. And what of your experience organizing the 2007 symposium on medical humanities?
A.
The seed for that experience grew out of the work that two Caspersen colleagues and I initiated by forming The Writers Group, a monthly peer support group for M.M.H. and D.M.H. candidates as they go through the writing process, now in its third year. We had the idea of offering a major event for medical humanities at Drew, and were fortunate enough to have the support of President Weisbuch and the faculty. We each brought strengths from our previous backgrounds to the planning of the symposium, and our knowledge from our graduate experience at Drew informed our choices for speakers and themes.

Q. You sound like a great collaborator.
A.
Meeting and collaborating with the caliber of students and faculty, I think was the most inspiring aspect of my experience at Drew.

Q. What’s next for Nancy Gross?
A.
Right now, I am satisfied with where I am. It’s pretty amazing to reinvent yourself in your late 50s. I am proud of what I have achieved, and I’d advise anyone with an interest in medical humanities that following your dream is possible—even if you are not quite sure where it’s taking you.