Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine
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Year : 2009  |  Volume : 31  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 57 Table of Contents   

Humanities in medical education

Asha Hospital, Hyderabad, India

Date of Web Publication21-May-2010

Correspondence Address:
M S Reddy
Asha Hospital, Hyderabad
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0253-7176.63573

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How to cite this article:
Reddy M S. Humanities in medical education. Indian J Psychol Med 2009;31:57

How to cite this URL:
Reddy M S. Humanities in medical education. Indian J Psychol Med [serial online] 2009 [cited 2018 Jul 17];31:57. Available from:

The importance of the humanities in medical education needs re-emphasis. The consensus is that technological and scientific advances have created a distancing effect between the patient and doctor. There is a growing fear that the humane aspects of medicine, namely, empathy, compassion and the art of dealing with patients as fellow human beings is getting eroded. In the training program, it is imperative to instill and refine the medical student's scientific understanding of how the human body works at the anatomical and physiological levels. There is the added desire that the student develop into a doctor who examines patients with a humanitarian touch. This means finding out something more in the "case" - the person who suffers from the illness. There is no other branch of science or specialty where this is more relevant and essential than in Psychiatry.

In psychiatry, the major disorders do not merely impair the functioning of the brain but exhibit themselves in behavioral disturbances that are experienced by patients. These conditions are not like neurological disorders that affect motor systems or sensory systems and leave the "experiencing self" intact to judge and describe. The experiencing self is directly and intimately involved in psychiatric disorders. There is a more compelling need in psychiatry, than in other medical specialties, for an appreciation of the areas of human knowledge like literature, linguistics and philosophy. This is to distinguish between competence, which is merely the barest minimum of clinical knowledge and mastery, the effortless demonstration skill at a higher level, which attracts admiration. That will be the demonstrated difference between training and education. The voluntary courses in humanities are more successful that compulsory courses.

The aims of the medical humanities, as set out by the Association for Medical Humanities, include:

  1. To emphasize education as distinct from training
  2. To enhance the clinician's abilities to listen, interpret and communicate and to encourage sensitive appreciation of the ethical dimensions of practice
  3. To stimulate and encourage an enduring sense of wonder and respect at the human body and its complex functioning systems
  4. To develop students and practitioners skill in thinking critically and reflectively about their experience and knowledge. [1]
There is a need to demonstrate an empathic approach to be sensitive to the effects of major psychiatric disorders on patients and their careers. Clinical work, properly taught and conducted, can be the sole basis of an appreciation of the intricacies of listening to, interpreting and communicating with patients, our fellow human beings.[3]

   References Top

1.Arnott. Academic Association for medical humanities.J Med Ethics Med Humanit 2001;27:104-4.  Back to cited text no. 1      
2.Oyebode F. The humanities in postgraduate medical education. Adv Psychiatr Treat 2009;15:224-30.  Back to cited text no. 2      
3.Charon R, Banks JT, Connelly JE, Hawkins AH, Hunter KM, Jones AH, et al. Literature and medicine: contributions to clinical practice. Ann Intern Med 1995;122:599-606.  Back to cited text no. 3  [PUBMED]  [FULLTEXT]  


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