, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 1-7
Date: 20 Nov 2009

Defining the Medical Humanities: Three Conceptions and Three Narratives

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Abstract

The definition of ‘medical humanities’ may be approached via three conceptions—the humanities as a list of disciplines, as a program of moral development, and as a supportive friend. The conceptions are grounded by linking them to three narratives—respectively, the history of the modern liberal arts college; the history of Petrarch and the studia humanitatis of the early Renaissance; and the life of Sir William Osler. The three conceptions are complementary, each filling gaps in one or more of the others. Getting clearer on a definition of ‘medical humanities’ is practically important if this field is to take its rightful place within health professions education and practice.