Defining the medical humanities: three conceptions and three narratives

J Med Humanit. 2011 Mar;32(1):1-7. 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.

MeSH terms

  • Concept Formation*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical
  • Humanities*
  • Humans
  • Narration*
  • Philosophy, Medical*
  • Terminology as Topic*