Developing a holistic and compassionate approach to the treatment of patients is a key competency needed by physicians in order to address today’s global healthcare needs. Learning these soft skills and acquiring knowledge that focuses on the humanities is an important part in a med student’s overall training. St. George’s University School of Medicine students can expand their humanities knowledge and learnings through the recently formalized Department of Medical Humanities and History of Medicine.
“Medicine is not merely a profession. It’s a noble pursuit—a calling to serve humanity and alleviate suffering,” said School of Medicine Dean Dr. Marios Loukas. “Being a good doctor means actively seeking to understand the unique experiences and perspectives of patients by acknowledging and addressing health disparities and providing the highest quality of care to every individual.”
SOM’s new Department of Medical Humanities and History of Medicine aims to emphasize and integrate humanities and history of medicine courses throughout SGU’s four-year MD program. The department is led by Robert Hage, MD, PhD, DLO, MBA as chair, and Arlette Herry, PhD, assistant dean of multicultural affairs, as its deputy chair.
Disseminated information will strengthen students’ communication skills and empathy, enrich their patient relationships, help build rapport with patients and colleagues, enhance their cultural competency, and mitigate burnout, among other benefits.
“Pure curriculum-based biomedical sciences do not pay sufficient attention to quality of life,” Dr. Hage said. “SGU’s medical humanities department helps students tap into crucial attributes such as introspection/reflection, empathy, and cultural humbleness—all of which are pivotal in creating a physician who is ready to serve a global community.”
What are the medical humanities?
The field of medical humanities is an interdisciplinary approach that incorporates various aspects of the humanities and social sciences into the study of medicine and healthcare. It provides a broader and more holistic understanding of health, illness, and medicine, taking into account the cultural, social, and ethical dimensions of these topics.
SGU’s School of Medicine currently offers offers students a range of extracurricular selectives to choose from delivered by faculty with a special interest and are far from the normal standardized courses. Faculty from other departments, such as the Department of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, will collaborate to offer relevant courses to basic sciences students. Clinical students will be able to register for a medical humanities elective through the New Jersey-based hospital system, Atlantic Health.
“Currently, we are creating the foundation to coordinate all these activities, including involvement by student clubs,” according to Dr. Herry.
SOM students can earn recognition in the medical humanities through research activities, certificates, a diploma, and eventually, a Master of Science.
“Medical humanities play a vital role in broadening the education and training of healthcare professionals by emphasizing the importance of cultural and social contexts, effective communication, and empathy in patient care,” Dr. Hage said.
Students interested in learning more go to the department’s section on the University portal.
— Laurie Chartorynsky