The Importance of Integrating the Arts and Humanities Into Medical Education : Academic Medicine

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From the Editor

The Importance of Integrating the Arts and Humanities Into Medical Education

Roberts, Laura Weiss MD, MA1

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Academic Medicine 96(8):p 1075, August 2021. | DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004170
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The arts and humanities contribute immensely and immeasurably to medical education. As different ways of knowing, sharing, and meaning-making, the arts and humanities strengthen our understanding, inspire compassion and creativity, and stimulate our cognitive capacities.

The arts represent complex ideas, often conveyed with simplicity and aesthetic frisson, and generate interpretations and analyses that may stretch far beyond the original intentions of the artists. The humanities allow us to connect across time and cultures, to recognize patterns of consequence, and to self-observe and reflect. Enriching our experience, the arts and humanities connect us with the lives and perspectives of others, proffering fundamental insights into illness and suffering, health and healing. For these and other reasons, integration of the arts and humanities into medical education is worthy of our attention and commitment.

This issue of the journal highlights many diverse examples of the integration of arts and humanities into medical education. I hope that our readers will value their encounters with the scholarly, 1–3 visual, 4,5 narrative, 6 poetic, 7,8 and even unexpected musical elements 9 that have come together for the collection.

Included are insights and stories from trainees across the health professions, 4–6 commentaries, 7,9 a scoping review of published reports of arts and humanities curricula, 1 a study on self-reflective writing by medical students, 10 and an essay on how visual arts training can enhance clinical skills. 11 An AM Last Page 12 provides a model for arts and humanities integration into medical education. Taken together, these works illustrate broad experiences across academic medicine as well as illuminate a path of shared knowledge and community in the health professions.

To elevate the contribution of the arts and humanities to medical education, we appointed a new assistant editor for Medicine and the Arts and adopted a new approach to selecting art for the cover of our print issues of Academic Medicine through an annual international competition. Please listen to the episode of the Academic Medicine podcast entitled “The Arts and Humanities in Medicine” 13 and see the journal’s instructions for authors 14 for additional details.

The integration of the arts and humanities, along with biomedical and scientific disciplines, into medical education is a deliberate decision. This decision honors creativity, compassion, critique, and connection 15,16 Importantly, this decision is informed by a view that all human knowledge is interconnected, generative, at times irreducible, and always incomplete, a lesson of significance for academic medicine. 15


1. Moniz T, Golafshani M, Gaspar CM, et al. How are the arts and humanities used in medical education? Results of a scoping review. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1213–1222
2. Goyal M, Bansal M. Shifting to critical medical humanities with the Theatre of the Oppressed. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1076
3. Adams ZM, Reisman A. In reply to Goyal and Bansal. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1076–1077
4. Roque W. Commentary on The Sleeping Gypsy. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1147
5. Chen P, Kasper J, Khoshbin S. The women before me: My journey painting honor wall portraits of women physicians. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1091–1094
6. Kumagai AK, Baruch J. Stories in the time of COVID-19. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1095–1096
7. Myers KR. Commentary on “Imagist poetry and clinical medicine: Arts of observation, precision, and expression.” Acad Med. 2021; 96:1149
8. Sgro G. Earthed lightening: A prescription for poetry in practice and teaching. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1105–1107
9. Lebwohl B. Commentary on String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1151
10. Cunningham H, Taylor DS, Desai UA, et al. Reading the self: Medical students’ experience of reflecting on their writing over time. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1168–1174
11. Chisolm MS, Kelly-Hedrick M, Wright SM. How visual arts-based education can promote clinical excellence. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1100–1104
12. Moniz T, Golafshani M, Gaspar CM, et al. The Prism model for integrating the arts and humanities into medical education. Acad Med. 2021; 96:1225
13. Kumagai AK, Roberts LW, Gallo T. The arts and humanities in medicine. AM Rounds. Published May 3, 2021 Accessed May 6, 2021
14. Academic Medicine. Editorial policy, publication ethics, and complete instructions for authors: Cover art. Accessed May 7, 2021
15. Skorton DJ. Preface. Skorton D, Bear A, et al, eds. In: The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education: Branches from the Same Tree. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2018; ix–xi
16. Shapiro J, Coulehan J, Wear D, Montello M. Medical humanities and their discontents: Definitions, critiques, and implications. Acad Med. 2009; 84:192–198
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