Skip navigation Jump to main navigation

Spring 2021 Advisory

Find the latest information SPS's plans for the Spring and University resources. Message from the Dean.
Close alert

Curriculum & Courses

Full-Time or Part-Time

  • 38 points for degree completion
  • Typically on-campus instruction only—modified for Fall 2020, when all courses will be offered with remote synchronous instruction
  • Typically fall intake only—modified for 20–21 to permit spring 2021 intake
  • Full-Time: 2 terms to complete (plus part-time summer, typically)
  • Part-Time: 2–6 years to complete 
  • Optional Independent Study/Capstone 

This program ordinarily permits on-campus instruction only. However, in Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, all Narrative Medicine M.S. courses will be conducted online, with synchronous instruction (i.e. students must be present for class times.) Electives in other graduate departments may be offered in "HyFlex" (combined in-person/remote) modality.

International students are responsible for ensuring they have read and understand the University’s student visa application eligibility and requirements. Please note that it is not permissible to enroll while in B-1/B-2 status. In addition, if studying on a student visa, you must enroll full-time (12 credits per term) and study on campus [requirement suspended in Fall 2020 for continuing students].

Those studying full-time can complete the program in one academic year plus the following summer, and for a few students, in one academic year. This is a rigorous and concentrated program that demands a serious commitment of time and energy. Students electing to study on a part-time basis can complete the degree in two years or more. The part-time option is designed to accommodate the professional obligations of students who are employed. Students are expected to devote significant time to completing reading assignments, class assignments, and term projects outside of class.

Degree Requirements: The Narrative Medicine graduate degree requires 38 points to complete. Students must take the five core courses in Narrative Medicine (20 points) and at least 6 points of NMED topics courses. For the remaining credits (12 points), students may choose a combination of: (a) additional NMED topics courses; (b) elective courses chosen from other departments (up to 6 points; must be 4000-level or higher); (c) optional Independent Study (1-4 points) and/or Capstone project (2-4 points). Students may take more than the required 38 credits—note that tuition is charged per credit.

The core curriculum of this pioneering M.S. in Narrative Medicine combines intensive exposure to narrative writing and close reading skills, literary and philosophical analysis, and experiential work, with the opportunity to apply this learning in clinical and educational settings. Core courses provide the conceptual grounding for work in narrative medicine, and introduce the direct practice of teaching narrative competence to others.

Students combine core curriculum work with more focused study of important and current topics in the field. Narrative medicine topics courses draw on the resources of more than one discipline. Courses rotate to reflect the current concerns, methodologies, and analytic approaches of narrative scholars and practitioners.

To allow students to individualize their professional education in narrative medicine, they may choose electives from among a wide range of offerings at the University, with advice and approval of the faculty adviser. Electives enable students to gain knowledge in academic disciplines they wish to pursue (e.g. medical anthropology) or in subject areas of special professional interest (e.g. aging).

The optional independent study or capstone project offers a wide range of opportunities for supervised or mentored work: a program development and/or evaluation project, a scholarly thesis, or a creative writing project. It may combine independent work with a summer intensive workshop, such as the Columbia University Oral History summer workshop or an intensive writing workshop. 

All students are assigned both a program advisor and a narrative medicine faculty advisor to aid in course selection and planning and to offer general support and guidance.

Curricular details:

  • Students must take Close Reading: Giving and Receiving Accounts of Self in their first semester of matriculation. 
  • Incoming students are encouraged to focus on the core courses at the beginning of the course of study.
  • All narrative medicine program courses are small discussion-oriented seminars which meet once per week for 2 or 3 hours.
  • All core courses are offered in both Fall and Spring semesters (but not summer) and scheduling varies between day and evening time slots. Topics courses are generally (but not always) offered once in any given academic year; typically two topics courses are offered during the summer term.
  • Generally it is not possible to place out of the core program requirements. The exception is Qualitative Methods & Research; if you have had significant experience in qualitative (not quantitative) research, write to the current QM&R instructor with documented proof, including syllabi, transcripts, and/or published or school work, and you will be informed of whether you are exempted. (Note that even if you have prior experience, you are encouraged to take the course.)
  • Students who have completed the 15-credit Columbia Narrative Medicine Certificate of Professional Achievement (CPA) and enter the Master's program may be granted 6 advanced standing credits towards the total M.S. degree 38-credit requirement. Students who switch programs partway through the CPA to the MS may be granted pro-rated advance standing credits at a 2.5:1 CPA to MS credit ratio (rounded down to the whole credit).


Core Courses

Topics in Narrative Medicine

Special Topics in Narrative Medicine

Capstone/Independent Study