The Dalhousie University Medical Humanities Program

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Geldenhuys, Laurette
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Mount Saint Vincent University
Although interest in the role of the humanities in medical education is increasing in Canada, literature on the subject is scanty. The following is a case study that describes and analyzes the Dalhousie Medical Humanities Program. The aim of this study is to add to the literature on the humanities in medicine; provide information for others elsewhere in Canada and internationally who would like to develop their own medical humanities programs; illustrate the benefits of the program to encourage ongoing support for the program; and enable participants to set new goals for the program. Review of the literature reveals a renewed interest in the medical humanities. This thesis identifies reasons for, obstacles to, and models for introducing the medical humanities into medical curricula. A detailed description of the history and components of the Medical Humanities Program at Dalhousie University illustrates that, in keeping with the trend elsewhere in the world, there is a strong presence of the medical humanities at Dalhousie University. The program was the first of its type in Canada, and the only program in the world that boasts a well-developed medical music program. Review of the results of a survey of the medical community on their awareness of, involvement in and opinions on the program, shows that among the responders there was great enthusiasm for the program. Survey participants felt that the program was excellent and essential. Dalhousie was seen to be a national leader in the medical humanities, and the program is a great attraction for some prospective medical students. Compared to other medical schools in Canada, Dalhousie is indeed a leader in the medical humanities in Canada. Future opportunities for the program include developing a stronger presence of the history of medicine in the medical curriculum; developing a master’s program in the medical humanities; and formal evaluation of the program. A more in-depth study of medical humanity activities at other medical schools is needed in order for us to place ourselves in the context of our peers, and for us to learn from one another in order to continually improve the quality of medical education in Canada.
Medical education, Canada, Medical humanities programs, Medical schools