For Undergrads

The Center for Documentary Studies offers three undergraduate courses each year which explore the intersection of documentary and medicine. “Medicine & Documentary Photography” and “Documentary Engagement” (offered each fall) and “Children & the Experience of Illness” (offered each spring). The courses are cross-listed with the School of Public Policy. “Medicine & Documentary Photography” and “Children and the Experience of Illness” are taught by John Moses, a photographer and a primary care pediatrician at Duke University Medical Center. “Documentary Engagement” (offered in the fall) is taught by Liisa Ogburn, Founder of the Documenting Medicine program.

See below for more detail about the undergraduate courses:

Medicine and Documentary Photography (Fall)

Seminar focuses on the intersection of documentary photography and the medical community. Students will complete a semester-long documentary photo project, as well as weekly journals and a five- to ten-page final essay. Part of each class will be devoted to reviewing the students’ work in progress. Consent of instructor required.
Cross list: PUBPOL 104S, VISUALST 103BS

Children and the Experience of Illness (Spring)

Using literature, photography and children’s drawings, this course incorporates a hands-on documentary approach to gain an understanding and appreciation of illness through the eyes of children. Demands an ability and willingness to work closely with children and families in the midst of illness.
Cross list: PUBPOL, DOCST

Documentary Engagement (Fall)

In this seminar students will learn to use documentary photography and audio as tools for social engagement in preparation for intensive field-based summer community documentary projects that contribute to the public good. Students will examine classic and contemporary documentary audio and photography to help give context and shape to their own documentary work.
 As a class we will develop a web-based portrait of a health story in Durham featuring multimedia portraits students produce in partnership with selected patients. (Topic varies each year)



“The teenagers I photographed taught me a lot, even as many of them struggled with serious challenges in their own lives. Having gone out to meet with them in their world, I came away with no neat formulations about teenage pregnancy but rather a richer, more accurate context in which to see them, and I hope, better understand their experience.” – John Moses, M.D.

“People learn using different modalities, and for some people the visual route opens the door to understanding. Even richer than teaching using documentary methods is the experience of the individual who prepares the materials, since documentary studies by their nature include rich human interactions. We learn when we take part, whether as the subject, the documentarian, or the viewer. This is a unusually meaningful project in which I'm very glad to participate." - Dr. Ross McKinney, Director of the Trent Center

Copyright © 2019 Documenting Medicine: A Program for Physicians.