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Humanities for medical students? A qualitative study of a medical humanities curriculum in a medical school program

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Author(s): Wachtler Caroline | Lundin Susanne | Troein Margareta

Journal: BMC Medical Education
ISSN 1472-6920

Volume: 6;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 16;
Date: 2006;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Today, there is a trend towards establishing the medical humanities as a component of medical education. However, medical humanities programs that exist within the context of a medical school can be problematic. The aim of this study was to explore problems that can arise with the establishment of a medical humanities curriculum in a medical school program. Methods Our theoretical approach in this study is informed by derridean deconstruction and by post-structuralist analysis. We examined the ideology of the Humanities and Medicine program at Lund University, Sweden, the practical implementation of the program, and how ideology and practice corresponded. Examination of the ideology driving the humanities and medicine program was based on a critical reading of all available written material concerning the Humanities and Medicine project. The practice of the program was examined by means of a participatory observation study of one course, and by in-depth interviews with five students who participated in the course. Data was analysed using a hermeneutic editing approach. Results The ideological language used to describe the program calls it an interdisciplinary learning environment but at the same time shows that the conditions of the program are established by the medical faculty's agenda. In practice, the "humanities" are constructed, defined and used within a medical frame of reference. Medical students have interesting discussions, acquire concepts and enjoy the program. But they come away lacking theoretical structure to understand what they have learned. There is no place for humanities students in the program. Conclusion A challenge facing cross-disciplinary programs is creating an environment where the disciplines have equal standing and contribution.
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