Elective Years 1 and 2: OBLIQUITY: Poetry, Humanities, and Medicine (Workshop Series)

Department: Arts & Humanities in Health & Medicine (AHHM) Program, Undergraduate Medical Education
Title: OBLIQUITY:  Poetry, Humanities, and Medicine (Workshop Series)
Location: Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry

Minimum 6-hour elective (2+ OBLIQUITY sessions + final small group reflection session; attending additional sessions can help fulfill 8, 10, or 12 hours of elective time). In addition to past and upcoming 2021-22 workshop sessions (click here), recordings of 2020-21 sessions (click here) can be viewed at any time and applied against elective requirements. 

Note: Anyone can watch previously recorded sessions or attend upcoming sessions without signing up for the elective.


EVERYONE can view past OBLIQUITY sessions, or sign up for upcoming sessions via  https://www.obliquity13.com.  If you would like to request information about upcoming sessions, please contact Manisha Bharadia, Med 2022 (manisha@ualberta.ca).

To sign up for this ELECTIVE, click here. If you have any questions about this elective, please contact Lisa Bussiere, MD Program/AHHM Administrator (ahhm@ualberta.ca) to arrange an appointment with Dr. Pamela Brett-MacLean.


Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow.’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember the other is asleep upon your bed. “On Joy and Sorrow” - Kahlil Gibran

While the ability to process intense emotion and difficult situations is essential to enhancing wellness and resiliency among those working in the healthcare field, few approaches are available to accomplish this. Written and spoken language offers an important means for sharing multifaceted views and perspectives (emotional, intellectual, spiritual) and developing insight and shared understanding. Poetic forms, in particular, hold richly evocative, yet ambiguous meanings that can promote close listening, attentiveness, observation, emotional connection, and analysis. As described by Bromberg (2008), “The poetic voice orders thoughts and allows for control, clarity, and reflection. It shapes our past narrative, and how we may construe our future narrative.”

The OBLIQUITY workshop series offers a community-based gateway for connecting, sharing, and exploring our storied lives – which is vital to the art of healing. Using various interactive approaches, workshop sessions offer a space for connection and dialogue through poetry and the humanities to promote reflection on challenging situations, personal growth, and resiliency. 

This elective involves experiencing 2 or more OBLIQUITY sessions (live, in real-time, &/or by viewing video recordings of earlier, completed sessions; it is expected that students will review assigned materials for the sessions they experience), AND completing a short mini-reflection meant to capture “in the moment” ideas and thoughts about interesting aspects of the workshop you continue to think about following the session (5-10 sentences, or so). IN ADDITION, students are REQUIRED to write a final, overall short narrative reflection (~1.5 pages) about their elective experience that they will share in a small group session, currently scheduled on March 29th (time TBD); if needed, it is possible that an additional date/time could be scheduled to accommodate individual schedules. For your final reflection you will be asked to write about a particularly meaningful or impactful session, or aspects of the overall elective you particularly enjoyed, or that surprised you, and ways in which you may view the world and ways of knowing, differently, or not, etc., having experienced different OBLIQUITY sessions. Mini-reflections will be helpful to students in writing their short personal narrative reflection at the end of the elective.

Topics covered during the 2020-21 INTER/SECTIONS workshop series included poetry, visual, creative, and performance arts, etc. - to access the entire series, including video links, click here.

The 2021-22 LEGACY workshop series covers such topics as: poetry, music, art, comics, drawing, and social media - to view the current series, click here

To register for upcoming OBLIQUITY sessions, including the session on “Art and Dermatology” with Ms. Jade Olayinka on January 17th, 2022, click here.

A pass/ fail grade will be assigned (as per the standard "Assessment of Elective Performance" form), based on completion of elective requirements.

Students will also be invited to complete a feedback form to help ensure the quality of this elective experience for students in subsequent years.

  1. To illustrate the value of regular reflection and conscious processing through the humanities (art, poetry, narrative medicine);
  2. To explore the cyclical nature of learning to cope with intense emotions and difficult/uncomfortable situations;
  3. To create a safe and collaborative forum for connecting individuals, regardless of affiliations or position, to recognize our unique, individual strengths and life experiences, and essential interconnectedness;
  4. To foster emotional connection, personal growth and development, and build a community of support.
Additional Notes:


Statement from Manisha Bharadia  (Med 2022), OBLIQUITY Founder & Curator:

Resiliency has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. However, since I entered medical school, I have seen many instances in which resiliency is essential but seems unreachable. Both students and physicians face a multitude of pressures including, but not limited to: burnout, imposter syndrome, depression, anxiety, societal restrictions, government policies, intense emotional experiences, trauma, and identity dissociation. These pressures are not just unique to medical students and physicians, they are unfortunately universal. While recognizing the many pressures we all face, this initiative provides a forum for social and relational processes that help make visible the strength of our interconnection, as we move forward with tenacity through adversity, trauma, and losses of different kinds, to construct the world anew each day. We need to stand together to bring change. The culture of medicine needs to change, and it starts with us.

OBLIQUITY (and narrative medicine) is not a cure-all. We do not promise to be the snake oil to tragedy and burnout. We promise to offer tools that are useful, applicable, and maybe even stylish. We will be what the Batmobile is to Batman: cool, innovative, and ready to traverse your metaphorical Gotham.

This elective, along with other AHHM electives, exists to support medical students in broadening their intellectual and clinical/ practice-based horizons, in particular with respect to the intersections that exist between the arts and humanities in relation to medicine.

Medical students can complete more than one 12-hour elective in Year 1 and 2.

Workshop sessions are OPEN to ALL - including students and faculty members in other health science programs and other faculties, as well as others from the larger community, including beyond Edmonton. Sign up for upcoming sessions via https://www.obliquity13.com.  Again, UofA medical students can sign up for THIS elective here.


Bromberg R. (2008). Poetry and medicine. The Medscape Journal of Medicine, 10(3), 63.

Last Updated: January 17, 2022