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Stanford Medicine

Medical Education, Medicine and Literature

Thoughts on the arts and humanities in shaping a medical career

We’ve written before about art’s intersections with medicine. For example, Audry Shafer, MD, director of Stanford’s Program on Arts, Humanities, and Medicine, explains how art in the medical setting can help patients and caregivers communicate an experience. A multidisciplinary undergraduate course helps students understand the structures of human viruses through sculptural renderings. And physician-author Abraham Verghese, MD, professor of medicine, advocates for attention to bedside manner through literature as well as policy.

Over on The Arnold P. Gold Foundation’s blog, Johanna Shapiro, PhD, a professor at UC Irvine School of Medicine, makes another case for letting your pre-med son or daughter major in philosophy (or sociology or art history). She writes:

To me, the most important meta-questions a future physician can engage with (preferably every day of her life) are fundamentally moral ones:

  • What kind of doctor do I want to be?
  • Who am I and who can I become within the practice of medicine?
  • How do dominant discourses in medicine and society influence me, my patients, and our community in negative or positive ways?
  • What is my commitment/responsibility/ to my patients and my community and how can I best serve them?

Arts and the humanities serve not to make you a better person, Shapiro writes, but to encourage you to continually examine and evaluate your actions – a useful course of study in any profession.

Previously: Stanford humanities course helps counteract the “powerlessness and shame” of addictionMore than medicine: Stanford medical students embrace their artistic passions through unique program and Live tweeting journalist Sheri Fink at Medicine and the Muse Symposium 

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