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Medical Humanities

Resources to explore and learn about the interdisciplinary topic of medical humanities

What is Medical Humanities?

2 women, a young girl and an older gentleman are gathered around a cradle with a sick infant

The Physician's Verdict - Oil painting by Emile Carolus Leclercq 

Medical Humanities is difficult to define, but can be described as an interdisciplinary, humanistic and cultural study of illness, health, health care, and the body in order to promote the interpretation of human factors associated with illness and wellness. It also endeavors to advance interprofessional collaboration, communication, and interpretive skill, to foster humility and improve the quality of delivered care.

An interdisciplinary course of study in Medical Humanities might include courses covering narrative medicine, history of medicine, medical anthropology, ethics, cultural studies, science and technology studies, economics, literature, and the creative arts, such as writing, film, and visual art. However, many of these topics can be integrated into classes in the curriculum or into extracurricular activities to provide a humanistic compliment to the science of medicine and EBM. These topics not only teach doctors how to use creative and humanistic mediums for their own expression and communication needs, but also how to critically interpret and evaluate pieces to better understand and empathize with their patients.

A brief but useful blog post from Lit Med Magazine by Jack Coulehan, M.D., M.P.H., Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine and Fellow, at the Center for Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Stony Brook University, New York, provides a doctor's perspective.

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