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  • Article Review - Humanities Education and Medicine

    Review of the Chicago Tribune Article

    Arts & Humanities Studies Make for Better Doctors

    By Lisa Pevtzow

    Recently, the Chicago Tribune released an article that discussed how individuals educated in the humanities and arts actually make for better doctors. I think this article really speaks to the changes that are arising in medical education and the applicants medical schools seek. Now more than ever, not only do patients want a doctor who can make good clinical decisions, but they want one who can show empathy, sensitivity, and compassion. Medicine should not just be focused on science and the body. It is easy to get swept up in the idea that patients are a sum of body parts and illnesses. This mindset loses the idea of the patient being a whole person, one with feelings, emotions, and thoughts that deserve a doctor with compassion and empathy. The person experiencing the illness, disease, or disability should always be at the center.

    Medical schools are increasingly looking for candidates that express characteristics that certainly can be attributed to humanities coursework, such as communication, sensitivity, compassion, altruism, collaboration, as well as many other traits. Admissions committees are really looking for well rounded students who can think for themselves, solve problems, and be creative. Those are the students that will make the best doctors. Remember, medical schools are not just admitting you to their educational program; they are also committed to you the process of becoming a doctor.

    As a pre-medical student, you may be thinking “how in the world do humanities courses like creative writing, art appreciation, improvisation, philosophy, or language help me to become a better doctor?” Creative writing actually enables you to become a better listener and understand your patients’ stories. Writing can be a very therapeutic and healthy way to deal with difficult situations you may encounter as a physician. It is inevitable that you will be treating patients for a long period of time who eventually pass away.  This experience may cause some unexpected or underestimated grief within you. Writing can be a helpful and healthy way for you to work through that grief. Art courses may help you develop your own ability to visually examine patients from a more open perspective. Improvisation contributes to your ability to handle unexpected situations or issues patients may present. The ability to be flexible and adaptable in any given situation is so incredibly important in your everyday work as a future physician. Improvisation can also allow you to speak to patients and families in terminology that they can actually understand. Philosophy courses can spark thoughtful questions and lead to a greater understanding and awareness of ethical issues you may encounter. Learning a language may help you appreciate different cultures as well as be able to communicate effectively with those from a different background.

    You may feel that compassion, empathy, sensitivity, cultural competence, and critical thinking may already exist within you, but you must continue to strengthen and improve these characteristics throughout your education, training, and career in medicine. Begin thinking about your undergraduate education as an opportunity to learn about yourself, who you are, and what kind of health care provider you want to be in the future. This is the opportunity to prepare yourself adequately for professional school. If you prepare well, just imagine the opportunities that might be afforded to you when you are in medical school.

    Link to the original article

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