Hook Scholars Information

Program description

The Edward W. Hook Scholars Program in Humanities and Ethics* complements UVA’s four-year medical curriculum by providing an informal humanities, bioethics, and arts pathway through all four years of medical education. Each year, the program selects up to five first-year medical students who have demonstrated interest and/or accomplishments in the humanities, bioethics, and/or fine and performing arts and who intend to keep such interest alive and aligned with their medical studies. Hook Scholars become a vibrant part of the life of the Center for Health Humanities and Ethics (CHHE), which provides an organizational framework and mentoring as scholars integrate humanities, bioethics, and arts pursuits into their medical school experience and professional identity formation.

Initiated in 2012, the Hook Scholars Program has graduated 40 scholars and includes with fourteen current students across  the classes of 2023, 2024, and 2025. Scholars’ interests have included music, literature, history, bioethics, creative writing, visual art, film, environmental humanities, and health policy. Graduates have gone on to residencies/careers in medicine, surgery, ob/gyn, family medicine, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, interventional radiology, anesthesiology, neurology, pediatrics, and pathology.

* The Hook Scholars Program is named in memory of Edward W. Hook MD (1924-1998), chair of UVA’s Department of Medicine for 21 years (1969-1990). A celebrated clinician, investigator, teacher, and national medical leader, Dr. Hook inspired others to understand disease, doctoring, and health in terms of culture, class, geography, economics, psychology, ethics, the arts, and politics as well as the biological sciences. He sought to train better, more humanistic doctors by helping students and residents develop and deploy core clinical competencies of observation, reflection, moral awareness, and compassion. While chair of Medicine, Dr. Hook was founding chair of UVA’s hospital ethics committee. He led the effort to purchase and place original art works in public areas of University Hospital. He created the medical school’s first faculty position in bioethics (John Fletcher PhD, 1988). When Dr. Hook retired as department chair in 1991, he founded and led the Program of Humanities in Medicine, predecessor to the present Center for Health Humanities and Ethics.

Program goals

To foster research and scholarship linking health humanities, bioethics, and arts pursuits to clinical skillsets that

  • Improve core clinical skills for better patient care and more satisfying healthcare practice (e.g. attention and observation, listening, compassion, communication, perspective-taking, curiosity and imagination, moral awareness, self-reflection, emotional intelligence, and tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty)
  • Enhance interdisciplinary learning and teaching (e.g., knowledge of humanities and bioethics resources and research methods and arts practices, reflection and reflective pedagogies)
  • Advance individual, public, and global health (e.g., historical perspectives, health equity concerns, cultural awareness, religious/spiritual traditions, Spanish language facility, arts practice)
  • Inform leadership, community service, and public policy (e.g., interprofessional teamwork, organizational and management skills, project management/leadership, creativity)
  • Encourage physicians to pursue scholarly and creative arts practices that address health, illness, and well-being
  • Promote careers for physicians in health humanities and bioethics

Program expectations

If selected, each Hook Scholar will

  • In the summer after first year, pursue scholarly research for seven weeks in residence at CHHE, under CHHE faculty supervision (note: CHHE must approve alternative and/or nonresidential summer activity). Most scholars’ research will be completed through UVA’s Medical Student Summer Research Program (MSSRP), which pays students’ summer registration fees. Hook Scholars receive a modest summer stipend. In spring 2023, selected scholars will meet with CHHE mentors to hone summer research project ideas. Projects should relate to ongoing CHHE scholarly initiatives (see CHHE website for core faculty interests).
  • In fourth year, take the required two-week course, “Calls of Medicine.” This capstone seminar for Hook Scholars and other graduating students meets in April of the Phase III curriculum.
  • In fourth year, scholars may count toward graduation up to twelve weeks of elective credit in humanities and ethics courses, including the two-week Calls of Medicine. (Other UVA medical students are limited to eight weeks of humanities/ethics credits.)
  • If desired, in fourth year, expand on earlier research, develop new independent research, or, as appropriate, prepare a creative arts portfolio. Hook Scholars are allowed up to four weeks’ elective time for independent research based in CHHE.
  • Attend CHHE meetings, retreats, and activities.
  • Participate in the Hook Scholars’ vertical community, with opportunities to model for and mentor one another and to develop learning and service projects.
  • Join CHHE faculty in creating learning modules, special programs, and Medical Center Hour programs.
  • Be a CHHE ambassador, promoting health humanities and bioethics programming and perspectives in the medical school, UVA Health, and UVA.
  • Advise CHHE on involving students in the center’s scholarly and service missions.

And, CHHE will offer each Hook Scholar

  • Membership in a community of scholars focused on the humanities, biomedical ethics, and the arts as these relate to health and illness, medicine, and medical education and practice.
  • Faculty mentoring in the student’s interest areas across all four years of medical school.
  • Opportunities to pursue research and coursework in health humanities and ethics.
  • Special seminars and activities, including interactions with visiting scholars.
  • CHHE resources, including faculty expertise, the lending library, and study/gathering space.
  • Recognition as a Hook Scholar at graduation from the School of Medicine.

 Applying to the Hook Scholars Program

Applying to the Hook Scholars Program: We are now welcoming applications from members of the Class of 2026. To apply, please e-mail the below documents to Dr. Benjamin Martin in the Center for Health Humanities and Ethics (bjm4z@hscmail.mcc.virginia.edu) no later than 12:00 midnight on Monday, 16 January 2023:

The following elements in a single document:

  • Concise (1-2 pages) letter of introduction and intent: Why do you want to be a Hook Scholar?
  • Up-to-date resumé or curriculum vitae.
  • Sample of undergraduate/graduate work in humanities, bioethics, or arts (e.g. analytical paper or sample of original creative work); OR a written reflection on your medical school experience thus far.
  • Briefly annotated list of up to five undergraduate/graduate courses or activities that relate to your Hook Scholars interests, with a sentence about the relevance of each item listed.
  • Preliminary statement indicating subjects you’d be interested to explore in a short, seven-week research project in June-July 2023 (limit: 1 page, double-spaced).
  • Undergraduate transcript, and, if applicable, graduate school and/or postbacc program transcript
  • Letter of support from someone (e.g. an undergraduate professor) who can speak knowledgeably about your commitment to the humanities, bioethics, or the arts as part of your medical studies. Waive your right to see this letter. The letter should be emailed directly from the writer to Dr. Martin: bjm4z@hscmail.mcc.virginia.edu

Questions? Contact Dr. Benjamin Martin (bjm4z@hscmail.mcc.virginia.edu) or Dr. Justin B. Mutter (JBM4N@hscmail.mcc.virginia.edu). Students often have questions, so please ask! The CHHE website (https://med.virginia.edu/biomedical-ethics/) offers ideas about current faculty scholarly interests and research projects.


The Hook Scholars of the Class of 2026 will be announced by early February 2023.