Requiring the Healer’s Art Curriculum to Promote Professional Identity Formation Among Medical Students


The Healer's Art curriculum (HART) is one of the best-known educational strategies to support medical student professional identity formation. HART has been widely used as an elective curriculum. We evaluated students’ experience with HART when the curriculum was required. All one hundred eleven members of the class of 2019 University of New Mexico School of Medicine students were required to enroll in HART. We surveyed the students before and after the course to assess its self-reported impact on key elements of professional identity formation such as empathy towards patients and peers, commitment to service, and burnout. A majority of students (n=53 of 92, 57.6%) reported positive effects of the course on their empathy towards other students. This finding was significantly associated with self-reported willingness to have elected the course had it not been required. One-half of respondents (n=46 of 92, 50.0%) reported positive effects on their empathy towards future patients. At least one-quarter to one-third of respondents reported positive influences on commitment to service, conceptions about being a physician, and self-perceived burnout. Students report benefits on their professional identity formation after participating in a required course on humanism. Empathy-building among peers is one valuable outcome of such curricula.

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The authors wish to acknowledge Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, the creator of the Healer’s Art Curriculum and the founder of the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness. We would like to thank the faculty who have taught the required and elective HART course at UNM SOM, Dr. Dean Parmelee for reviewing this paper, the authors of the CMRSU study for permission to use their survey questions, and the educational leadership and staff at UNM SOM who have provided the support needed to make this course a reality.


No funding was obtained to support this research. The international Healer’s Art course itself is supported by gifts and grants from private donors to the Remen Institute for the Study of Health and Illness (RISHI) at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. None of RISHI’s funding sources had any role in the design or conduct of the study; the collection, management, analysis, or interpretation of the data; or the preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth C. Lawrence.

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Lawrence, E.C., Carvour, M.L., Camarata, C. et al. Requiring the Healer’s Art Curriculum to Promote Professional Identity Formation Among Medical Students. J Med Humanit (2020).

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  • Professional wellness
  • Professional identity
  • Medical humanities
  • Medical education
  • Curriculum development