A New Construct in Undergraduate Medical Education Health Humanities Outcomes: Humanistic Practice

Rebecca Volpe, Bernice L. Hausman, Katharine B. Dalke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Proposed educational outcomes for the health humanities in medical education range from empathy to visual thinking skills to social accountability. This lack of widely agreed-upon high-level curricular goals limits humanities educators’ ability to design purposeful curricula toward clear, common ends and threatens justifications for scarce curricular time. We propose a novel approach to the hoped-for outcomes of health humanities training in medical schools, which has the potential to encompass traditional health humanities knowledge, skills, and behaviors while also being concrete and measurable: humanistic practice. Humanistic practice, adapted from the concept of ethical sensitivity, is an intentional process of applying humanities knowledge and skills to a clinical scenario by 1) noticing that the scenario requires humanities knowledge or skills, 2) informing one’s clinical and interpersonal strategy and behavior with humanities knowledge or skills, 3) reflecting on the effectiveness of the strategy and behavior, and 4) reorienting to develop new approaches for future practice. The construct of humanistic practice may help address some of the foundational problems in health humanities outcomes research since it transcends the traditional diverse content domains in the health humanities, can link patient and provider experiences, and may bridge the divide among the additive, curative, and intrinsic epistemic positions of humanities to medical education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Medical Humanities
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy

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