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Letters to the Editor

In Reply to Jain and Kassam:

Klitzman, Robert MD1

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doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004457
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I am grateful to Jain and Kassam for further underscoring the importance of integrating religion and spirituality in medical education and endorsing some of the suggestions I made in my article. But to clarify, my sentence, “Even one such lecture reviewing these topics is better than none,” was not dismissing additional approaches.

I agree with Jain and Kassam, and had covered in my article, that small group discussions—as opposed to just lectures—can be key ways of incorporating religion and spirituality into medical curricula. I mentioned that by using standardized patients as one possible approach, students interact with actors or peers to learn key communication skills. As my article elaborated, medical students “could discuss vignettes involving challenges that can arise when they are working with patients of diverse faiths.” It is crucial for medical educators to integrate these issues into medical curricula in a variety of forms.

Unfortunately, as my article described, challenges exist, given resistance from many medical school deans. Nonetheless, having students, such as Jain and Kassam, express their interest in, and desire for, more such training both in their individual medical schools and in medical education more generally is immensely important. Students have often advocated and arranged for more such group discussions in their respective medical institutions. Sadly, however, when such students graduate, these initiatives frequently either fizzle out or are discontinued by their schools.

I encourage Jain and Kassam, and other interested students, to continue to push for further attention to, and integration and discussion of, religion and spirituality into medical curricula and for allocation of sufficient time to these areas. As these authors suggest, such integration is critical, and its establishment on an ongoing—rather than ad hoc, temporary basis—should be pursued. As future leaders in medicine, such students can thus help to significantly improve our profession as a whole.

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