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Artist: & @alonglastname

Photo Credits: Jonathan Flores

Medical Humanities:
History and Present

Medical humanities was born out of crisis. It arose on medical campuses in the 1960s to address the growing distance between patients and physicians and to humanize both patients and practitioners for each other. Since then, the field has transformed. By the 1980s, new professional bodies, journals, and educational initiatives expanded their scope from medical schools to health and liberal arts campuses and from professional education alone to broader education, research, and public engagement. Today, over 150 medical and health humanities programs and departments exist on both health and liberal arts campuses.(1)

Over the past few decades, medical humanities’ constituent disciplines and methods have grown to include “vital new configurations” of arts, literature, history, ethics, and social sciences. The goals of medical humanities have also expanded well beyond humanizing practitioners to wielding the tools of the humanities and social sciences to explore, analyze, and critique health and healthcare. 

With successive waves affecting health and healthcare delivery–from the digital revolution in medicine, climate crisis, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic–these goals have become more vital today than ever. 


(1) Berry, S.L., Klugman, C.M., Adams, C.A. et al. Health Humanities: A Baseline Survey of Baccalaureate and Graduate Programs in North America. J Med Humanit (2023).

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