Teaching humanism

Perspect Biol Med. Autumn 2008;51(4):495-507. doi: 10.1353/pbm.0.0059.


As the "passion that animates authentic professionalism," humanism must be infused into medical education and clinical care as a central feature of medicine's professionalism movement. In this article, we discuss a current definition of humanism in medicine. We will also provide detailed descriptions of educational programs intended to promote humanism at a number of medical schools in the United States (and beyond) and identify the key factors that make these programs effective. Common elements of programs that effectively teach humanism include: (1) opportunities for students to gain perspective in the lives of patients; (2) structured time for reflection on those experiences; and (3) focused mentoring to ensure that these events convert to positive, formative learning experiences. By describing educational experiences that both promote and sustain humanism in doctors, we hope to stimulate the thinking of other medical educators and to disseminate the impact of these innovative educational programs to help the profession meet its obligation to provide the public with humanistic physicians.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Humanism*
  • Humans
  • Physician's Role
  • Professional Practice*
  • Teaching / methods*
  • United States