Academic Medicine

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Academic Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3181dc1820

Commentary: Sharper Instruments: On Defending the Humanities in Undergraduate Medical Education

Belling, Catherine PhD

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The study by Ousager and Johannessen in this issue finds a lack of research attempting to measure the long-term effects of incorporating humanities into the undergraduate medical education (UME) curriculum, and warns that more such studies are needed if the humanities are to become integrated into UME. This commentary points to limitations in the study's methodology, suggesting that the value of the humanities in educating new physicians can be defended by demonstrating the need for more complex approaches to knowledge than complete dependence on empirical evidence, and invites those who support inclusion of the humanities in UME to take up three challenges: work together to define the terms and scope of the medical humanities as a coherent (though heterogenous) field, teach reading skills (promote, that is, a nonreductive approach to the interpretation of human objects), and work to establish effective and persuasive alternatives to the blunt tools of outcomes measurement.

© 2010 Association of American Medical Colleges


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