Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A Place for Humanities in Medical Education, Book review Creative Arts in Humane Medicine

as published in The Canadian Medical Association Journal, CMAJ,  February 23, 2015.


 We are publishing very brief excerpts from this recently published book review below.  To access the full article (pay for view)  visit CMAJ website at http://www.cmaj.ca/content/early/2015/02/17/cmaj.140532


Book review

A Place for Humanities in Medical Education

by Vincent Hanlon M.D.


Cheryl L. McLean, editor

Brush Education, 2014


Cheryl L. McLean, an independent scholar and publisher of The InternationalJournal of the Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice,  has arranged this resource book in four sections covering education for empathy, practitioner self-care, use of narratives and use of the creative arts to create change in health.  

Given the acceptance of a scientific basis for the education of physicians and current reliance on reproducible numeric evidence,  much of the medical humanities discussion occurs on the margins of the medical education enterprise.  In her recent keynote address at the 2014 Alberta PsychiatricAssociation meeting, McLean posed a central question in the debate over efforts to include medical humanities in medical education:  How do the creative arts help practitioners enhance clinical and relational skills?  The amply credentialed contributors to Creative Arts in Humane Medicine physicians, medical students, allied health professionals and artists provide some answers but raise yet more questions.  (such as) How do we reconcile first person experiences of illness and death with the objective reductionism of disease that is more typical of biotechnology in medicine? This perspective contrasts with a common perception among medical educators of humanities role as hand-maiden, usually pleading to contribute to the serious enterprise of educating doctors.  

An underlying question remains unanswered:  What would be the best forums in which to engage in such interdisciplinary inquiry?

Dr. Rita Charon has advocated identifying "senior influential clinicians as key players in the integration of the arts with the science of medicine.  These clinicians are individuals who themselves have been exposed to and altered...by deep learning in humanities and narrative studies." 

Their teaching methods reflect this learning and enable them to foster an invigorating, long-term and necessary interdisciplinary collaboration on clinical teaching that can include and welcome senior artists and teachers from the humanities.  Gifted voices from both medicine and humanities have contributed to Creative Arts in Humane Medicine in McLean's ensemble effort to show us different paths to the future.