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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2007

S S 301 • Honors Social Science: Social Science Theory

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
44560 TTh
9:30 AM-11:00 AM

Course Description

This course focuses on the theoretical frameworks undergirding our current understanding of truthtelling in medicine, including bioethical theories, communication theories, and theories of how health care systems operate. The course also reviews seminal and current research on medical care communication, with special emphasis on the truthful communication of "bad news"(any information that is emotionally distressing and threatening, such as recurrence of cancer, brain damage in an infant). Research methods used in this area will be analyzed.

The final aspect of the course will be analysis of several clinical protocols that have been developed and tested in research projects in training medical students and residents to supportively and honestly communicate bad news to patients. Students will become familiar with the Buckman and Baile (2001) SPIKES protocol for giving bad news. In order to give students an initial experience using this protocol, students will each be videotaped in a role play in which the student is a physician giving bad news, and a patient receiving bad news in simulated clinical environments.

About the Professor

Joy Penticuff is the Lee and Joseph Jamail Professor of Nursing at the University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing. Dr. Penticuff holds a Masters degree in Pediatric Nursing and a PhD in Clinical Psychology from Case Western Reserve University. Her baccalaureate degree in nursing is from The Medical College of Georgia. Dr. Penticuff teaches research and bioethics courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She is a member of the University of Texas at Austin's Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

I am an avid equestrianne, complete with a "show horse", an eleven year old thoroughbred hunter-jumper. We compete together in the Texas horse shows. Upon request I will come to class dressed in full riding garbvelvet-covered helmet, gloves, high-collared shirt, breeches, tall leather boots. Even though much of my discretionary time is taken up with riding, I also have long-term relationships with my husband Michael and daughter Rachel, and a beginning (hopefully long-term) relationship with my new son-in-law, Zac. I also like country music.

Grading Policy

One short (5-7 page) paper early in the semester dealing with a student-selected theoretical framework: 25%
One long (12-15 page) paper toward the end of the semester: 35%
Student participation in class discussions: 15%
Student participation in 4 or more videotaped role plays: 25%


Readings are uncertain at this time. They will probably include an anthology of readings focusing on each of the three content areas of the course. The content will most likely cover both research articles (a good number of recent research studies, professional association's guidelines about communication training in medicine) and a set of other, more conceptual, philosophical articles about the meaning and significance of truthtelling, including bioethical articles about physician obligations, the goals of medicine, not doing harm, etc. Also articles dealing with healthcare systems theory that provide a notion of the context within which medical communication occurs and the impact of contextual features on clinical truthtelling, especially in the communication of bad news.


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