Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 1–7

Defining the Medical Humanities: Three Conceptions and Three Narratives


DOI: 10.1007/s10912-009-9094-4

Cite this article as:
Brody, H. J Med Humanit (2011) 32: 1. doi:10.1007/s10912-009-9094-4


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.


Medical humanitiesHumanitiesOslerWilliamPetrarchStudia humanitatis

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Texas Medical BranchGalvestonUSA