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Medical Humanities Institute

By Aliye Runyan, M.D.
AMSA Education and Research Fellow

The AMSA Medical Humanities Institute was held the first weekend of April, bringing 24 medical and pre-medical students from around the country to AMSA headquarters just outside of D.C.

The three-day workshop highlighted the importance of the narrative in a patient's history, provider-patient communication, reflective writing for well-being of both patients and providers, and skills for maintaining balance in medical training, including yoga and meditation. The institute keynote (for the second year in a row), was Rita Charon, director of the Department of Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, and founder of the field of narrative medicine. She instructed the group through a writing exercise, spoke about the importance of listening to the patient, and explained her process of shared notes with her patients, where patients are able to edit and contribute to their medical history and plan throughout.

Other sessions included an overview of humanities in medical education with Gretchen Case from the University of Utah, a poetry workshop with nurse and poet Veneta Masson, a writing and film session with Linda Raphael from George Washington University, expressive writing with Nancy Morgan from the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown, and meditation / yoga therapy with instructors from the Beloved Yoga Studio in Reston, Virginia.

Overall, the students had a wonderful experience and a renewed sense of community that they will take back to their universities to begin projects in the medical humanities - to create awareness and build knowledge amongst both peers and faculty of the skill set which humanities provides to medical care.

The institute was generously sponsored by the Arnold P Gold Foundation and the Brown University Department of Emergency Medicine.

"One of the biggest things I took away from the institute was the idea that swinging the pendulum of medicine back towards the human element will require not only bringing medical humanities aspects to clinics and practitioner training programs, but doing so in a way that still fits into the current standards of performance and improvement evaluations. It's also our responsibility to call attention to what we measure, how, and why, in hopes that one day the standards won't be complete without what we are now desperately struggling to include." - Ronald Canepa

"Too often, we take for granted the experiences and skills most likely to change the course of our professional lives. By attending the institute, I refined my understanding of healing as an art, rather than purely a science." - Ajleeta Sangtani


Photo by Lorenzo Sewanan

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