The authors discuss their experience in implementing a Medical Ethics and Humanities course for premedical students at Weill Cornell Medical College in the Arabian Gulf emirate of Qatar. The course, first offered in 2003, is designed to prepare these students for the medical school curriculum to follow and to make global medical knowledge meaningful for their local context. Pedagogical challenges included the cross-cultural tensions that could emerge when introducing themes from Western medical ethics and humanities into this overwhelmingly Islamic context. The authors outline the response to this challenge and strategies to broaden student inquiry without engaging in indoctrination.
This seminar-based course was designed around seven thematic areas of increasing biopsychosocial complexity, from nature and biology, to the patient, the physician, and the family, to broader questions of hospital care, the health care system, and the place of law in modern medicine. Readings from the literature of the Western and Arabic traditions were used, including selections by Hippocrates, Thomas, Kafka, Mahfouz, and Pellegrino.
It is too early to know the ultimate impact of the course, but students demonstrated enthusiasm for ethics and the medical humanities and a willingness to consider new and novel ways of knowing. The authors anticipate that this grounding in the humanities will complement the students’ work in the sciences and help further develop their nascent professional identities in an increasingly global medical community.