On Becoming a Doctor of Humane Letters

Heart Surg Forum. 2016 Aug 19;19(4):E150-2. doi: 10.1532/hsf.1647.


In an era of rapid, cheap, and efficient electronic communication, the practice-and art-of letter writing has faded. There are many reasons for us as physicians and surgeons to resist this evolution. And, there are many opportunities to employ letter writing to the benefit of ourselves, our patients, and our colleagues. A true Doctor of Humane Letters is an honorary degree, generally awarded for significant contributions to society. However, given that humane can be defined as showing compassion, understanding, mercy, and tolerance, we can all strive to be worthy of such a distinction. There are many mundane letters familiar to us all, such as letters of recommendation, letters of thanks, and letters of commendation. However, I would like to offer some suggestions about other less common, but useful, types of letters that might prove valuable to physicians both in training and in practice. These include letters of inquiry, condolence, reflection, and explanation, as well as some notes about missives that are often best written but not sent.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Correspondence as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Physicians*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires