The orphan child: humanities in modern medical education

Kollmer Horton, M.E.
Submitted: January, 2019

Use of humanities content in American medical education has been debated for well over 60 years. While many respected scholars and medical educators have purported the value of humanities content in medical training, its inclusion remains unstandardized, and the undergraduate medical curriculum continues to be focused on scientific and technical content. Cited barriers to the integration of humanities include time and space in an already overburdened curriculum, and a lack of consensus on the exact content, pedagogy and instruction. Edmund Pellegrino, physician and scholar of the latter twentieth century, spent much of his professional life promoting the value and importance of the humanities in medical education, seeking the best way to incorporate and teach this content in clinically relevant ways. His efforts included the founding of multiple enterprises starting in the 1960s and 1970s to promote human values in medical education, including the Society for Health and Human Values and its Institute on Human Values in Medicine. Regardless of his efforts and those of many others into the current century, the medical humanities remains a curricular orphan, unable to find a lasting home in medical education and training.

Resource Type:
  • Commentaries & Blogs
  • Medical Ethics
  • Curriculum & Medical Teaching