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Innovative Education using Medical Humanities - a review of our recent Medical Humanities conference by Helen McGeown

Innovative Education using Medical Humanities

Throughout my medical degree and foundation training, I have had few opportunities to engage in learning styles other than those focused on learning and retaining information. Having fond memories of my A-level English class, where we were encouraged to explore ideas rather than regurgitate facts, I was excited to attend Imperial’s conference on Innovative Education using Medical Humanities.

Prescription poetry exercise
The conference programme included a diverse range of speakers, including an actor, a music therapist and a sculptor, as well as doctors and medical students with strong interests in medical humanities. Giskin Day, lead for medical humanities teaching at Imperial provided an introduction to the concept of medical humanities as well as facilitating creative activities, my favourite of which was ‘prescription poetry’ (see picture)

Speakers at the conference convincingly argued for the inclusion of medical humanities as a core aspect of all medical curricula.  So much of our role as doctors involves reading human behaviour and communicating effectively, often in emotionally charged situations. Additionally, we have a need to process our own responses to the at times distressing situations we will inevitably encounter in our day-to-day work.  None of these skills can be learned from a textbook, and the humanities provide an incredible resource, which has previously been untapped within our discipline. Bloom’s taxonomy of learning (see picture) provides an interesting reconceptualization of how medical education could be approached. Developing what were previously felt to be ‘soft’ skills e.g. in joint decision-making and problem solving draws on analytical and even creative skills that appear at the top of this hierarchy. Equipping medical students with these skills is particularly necessary in the digital age to enable future doctors to deliver a service that can’t be accessed via a computer.

Bloom's Taxonomy
Presentations and workshops on the day actively demonstrated how art and humanities can be used to help communication with colleagues, bedside examination skills and even assessment of dermatological lesions. This was a refreshing change from the traditional didactic style in which conferences are delivered, and the high degree of audience participation kept us engaged throughout the day.

This conference challenged how I think, and I have found it more memorable than any other conference I have attended. For these reasons alone it left me utterly convinced that we need a stronger focus on humanities in medical education, and we need it now.

Giskin Day presents Picasso's "The Medical Student"
A member of the Medical Student Panel sharing his artwork which explored Parkinson's disease


Azeem Majeed said…
Thank you for your article Helen. Thanks also to Ben for posting the article on the blog.
helenmcg said…
No problem!

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