In this piece for Pacific Standard, Angira Patel discusses the role that studying the humanities can play in helping doctors become more empathetic and culturally sensitive toward their patients.
“As a philosophy major in college before medical school, I believe I learned what it means to be a good doctor equally from my humanities classes as from my science classes. Studying the humanities helps students develop critical-thinking skills, understand the viewpoints of others and different cultures, foster a just conscience, build a capacity for empathy, and become wise about emotions such as grief and loss. These are all characteristics that define a good doctor.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a report arguing for the integration of STEM with the arts and the humanities. Given the projected increase in STEM jobs, the need for a workforce to fill them, and the prospect of a well-paying job, it’s not surprising that students are encouraged to pursue STEM fields.
At the same time, the important role of humanities in medicine is emphasized in scores of programs in the United States and around the world, including Stanford University, Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, the University of California–San Francisco, and King’s College London. Meanwhile, some medical schools are reworking their curricula, and peer-reviewed journals such as Medical Humanities and the Journal of Medical Humanities publish work that emphasizes the importance of the humanities for doctors.”