Marcia Day Childress

Marcia Day Childress PhD

Dr. Marcia ChildressProfessor Emerita of Medical Education 
Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita

Marcia Day Childress is Professor Emerita of Medical Education and Harrison Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita in the School of Medicine. For twenty-five years (1996-2021), she directed Programs in Humanities in the Center for Health Humanities and Ethics, including humanities and arts courses and co-curricular activities for medical students. During those same years, she directed and produced the Medical Center Hour, the School of Medicine’s weekly public forum on medicine, society, and healthcare, which marked its fiftieth year of continuous production in 2020-2021. She was founding director of the center-based Edward W. Hook Scholars Program, a four-year track for selected medical students who wish to make the humanities, bioethics, or arts part of their pathway into medicine.

A literature scholar by training, Professor Childress designed and taught medical school courses in Literature and Medicine and Images of Medicine, directed senior students’ research in humanities and the arts, and oversaw humanities elective courses for medical students. She co-developed Clinician’s Eye, an art museum-based visual analysis workshop for health professionals. Together with a law professor, she led Interprofessional Seminars in Ethical Values and Professional Life for medical, law, and graduate design students. For ten years (2007-2017), Professor Childress taught an undergraduate English course, Narratives of Illness and Doctoring. In the medical school, she was faculty adviser to the health humanities interest group; to Veritas, the medical students’ literary arts magazine; and to HeArt of Medicine, an end-of-life care education project led by medical and nursing students. She was a faculty adviser to UVA’s chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Within and beyond the medical school, she developed and led numerous special programs, interprofessional conferences, and public events featuring humanities and arts in relation to health, healthcare, and health professional education, including collaborations with Bryan Doerries’ New York-based social impact company Theater of War.

Professor Childress’s scholarly interests have included literature and medicine, narrative medicine, the moral formation of the physician, and uses of the literary, visual, and dramatic arts in professional education. She writes on literature and the arts in medicine, medical education innovations, and end-of-life care. Her publications and presentations address Virginia Woolf’s illness experience and metaphoric language, Samuel Beckett’s short plays with bedside applicability, reflective writing for practitioners, and novel interprofessional learning opportunities using literature for professional students.

Professor Childress was a UVA-sponsored scholar in the 2010 international cohort of the Harvard Macy Program for Educators in the Health Professions; she returned to this program as faculty in 2021-2022. In 2011 and 2016, she was a research fellow-in-residence at the Centre for the Advanced Study of Bioethics, University of Münster, Germany. Since 2013, she has participated in ISCOME, an international consortium of communication science scholars and health professionals focused on preventing medical error through improved communication in healthcare settings. At UVA, she was on the Law School and Department of English teaching faculties, a faculty fellow of the Center for Global Health Equity and the School of Architecture’s Center for Design and Health, and a member of the Institute for the Humanities and Global Cultures’ advisory board. She is a docent with UVA’s Fralin Museum of Art.

A charter member of the medical school’s Academy of Excellence in Education, Professor Childress received a Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and the School of Medicine’s David A. Harrison III Distinguished Educator Award. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and represented UVA at PBK’s 2018 Triennial Meeting. She was elected as a faculty member to the national medical honor societies Alpha Omega Alpha and the Gold Humanism Honor Society and to UVA’s Raven Society. Active in university service, she chaired the UVA Faculty Senate and the President’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns and served on numerous all-university and Faculty Senate committees, advisory groups, task forces, and search committees. In 2009, she received UVA’s highest leadership award for women, the Elizabeth Zintl Award.

Professor Childress holds degrees in English literature from Michigan State University (BA, 1970) and the University of Virginia (MA, 1976; and PhD, 1996).