What are the medical humanities?
This growing interdisciplinary and interprofessional field is a fusion of the arts and humanities with healthcare. Not only are the medical humanities key for wellness and preventing burnout of healthcare providers, but research shows that a physician participating in the humanities is an improved clinician. The medical humanities enhances observation skills, critical thinking and creativity. It can also help in the preservation of empathy and compassion.
The Medical Humanities Program at Dalhousie University was started in 1992 by Dr. Jock Murray, and has been thriving since. We are one of the leading universities in North America when it comes to this field of study, with opportunities for medical students, faculty and community members to get involved.
Who is the medical humanities for?
The short answer is, the medical humanities is for everyone. Here are some ways to get involved:
Undergraduate Medical Education
Medical students have the opportunity to get involved in the humanities in both curricular activities and extracurricular ways. There are two humanities reps, one for DMNS and one for DMNB.
Meet our Humanities Student Representatives
Hi Dal Med, My name is Matt Curry and I’m the DMNS Arts and Humanities representative for this year. While I may not be a great artist myself, I’ve always appreciated the arts and their capacity to bring people together. As medical students, I feel that engaging in art allows us to practice taking on new perspectives, a skill that will help us understand our patients. In my spare time I enjoy painting, caring for my plants and feeding pigeons. If you ever have ideas for humanities-themed events, or would like to learn about opportunities for art in medicine please email me!
Hi, my name is Borum Yang and I am in my second year of medical training at the Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick campus. I became involved in Dal humanities because of my lifelong interest in music and the arts. I am an avid piano player and enjoy DIY projects. I’m looking forward to connecting with you by email!
The humanities are a tool that can be used for cognitive debiasing, and humanities experiences have been incorporated at various points within the medical school curriculum. For example, second year medical students take part in a humanities-based critical thinking workshop. Students also have the chance to complete humanities-based electives and research projects, and can complete a credentialled certificate in the humanities. To inquire about these experiences, please email one of our Program Directors. Examples of past projects include using poetry to prevent burnout among trainees or creative writing in a palliative care setting.
The chance to take part in extracurricular medical humanities activities are plentiful. Below are some of the ways you can get involved:
Health Professions Chorale
Heartbeat! Interprofessional choir
Ceol Ceilidh Band
History of medicine society
Medical student blog (under development)
Postgraduate Medical Education
Residents are also encouraged to become involved in Dalhousie’s Medical Humanities Program. A number of Dalhousie residents have chosen to complete their Final Resident Project in the medical humanities. Humanities electives are also encouraged, as is a new elective, called the Clinical Humanities elective. In this unique experience, students will pair their clinical learning with an arts or humanities component.
Continuing Professional Development for Faculty and Staff
Through the course of the year, the Dalhousie Humanities Program hosts a series of faculty development events on various aspects of the medical humanities program. With the Covid-19 pandemic, these events have been hosted virtually. Previous topics of events included exploring Indigenous health and wellness through film, using art to improve critical thinking and narrative medicine.
The Co-Directors are also eager to work with Dalhousie faculty and staff across disciplines in research and teaching initiatives. Please contact one of our Directors if you would like to collaborate.
Communities and Patients
We are pleased to be working with community partners and patients. If you are a community organization or a patient and you would like to get involved, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Medical Humanities program at Dalhousie is pleased to support a number of awards for students.
Cynthia Davis Prize for Writing
The Cynthia Davis Prize for Writing is an award that is offered annually to a medical student or resident for a work of creative writing. This could be in the form of a short-story, poem or creative nonfiction piece.
Cynthia Davis Writing Competition 2022 - Application is now closed.
Dr. G. W. Archibald Gold-headed Cane Award in Medical Humanities
Presented each year to a physician faculty member who:
- Exemplifies a humanistic approach to clinical care and stimulates learners to engage with arts and humanities in their personal and professional life.
- Integrates scholarly work related to the humanities into their professional life, and acts as a mentor in scholarship and/or research in the medical humanities.
- Serves as an effective role model in the medical humanities.
Call for applications 2022-2023 [pdf 256 kB]
Due January 31, 2023
Dr. F. Ian Maclean Memorial Prize
The Dalhousie Society for the History of Medicine and the family of Dr F Ian Maclean are honoured to have this prize established in his memory. Dr. Maclean began his career in science as an undergraduate in the University of Toronto in 1947, eventually retiring in 1995 as an Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at Dalhousie University. He was a popular and conscientious teacher, devoting considerable energy to the introductory courses in biochemistry that he taught in the School of Nursing. After his retirement he travelled frequently and widely, pursuing interests both inside and outside science. One of these was the history of medicine.
The prize recognizes the accomplishments of a Dalhousie Medical or Nursing student (undergraduate, graduate or resident) who demonstrates excellence in a scholarly project related to the history of medicine.
Call for applications 2022-2023 [pdf 212 kB]
Due January 31, 2023
If you have any questions, contact: email@example.com
Dr. TJ (Jock) Murray Visiting Scholar
This lecture series was established in honour of Dr. TJ (Jock) Murray, former Dean of Dalhousie Medical School. The T J Murray Visiting Scholar in the Medical Humanities-HEALS Program promotes the balance of science and humanities in medicine.
Hunter Humanities Award
The Hunter Humanities Award will be presented to a graduating medical student at Dalhousie who has made an outstanding contribution to the concept and spirit of the humanities in medicine and demonstrated the humanistic qualities of caring and compassion in his/her care of patients. The award, $1000, has been generously contributed by a Dalhousie Graduate, Dr. Mary Hunter, retired from anesthesiology practice in Toronto.
2022 Call for Nominations - Hunter Humanities Award - Application now closed.
Meet Our People
Arundhati Dhara, MD, MPH, CCFP
Co-Director, Medical Humanities (DMNS)
Assistant Professor Department of Family Medicine
Dr. Arundhati Dhara is a family physician, mother and committed social justice advocate. She works in both the clinic and the hospital. She is also an essayist and has written for numerous publications including the CBC and Canadian Family Physician.
Sarah Fraser, MD, MSc, CCFP
Co-Director, Medical Humanities-HEALS (DMNS)
Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine
Dr. Fraser is a family physician. In addition to her work as Co-Director, she is Associate Scientific Editor/Humanities at the medical journal Canadian Family Physician. She believes that the health humanities are key to reforming medicine, for the better. Her particular interest is the combination of writing and medicine. In her free time she enjoys being with nature, dancing kizomba and learning languages.
Wendy Stewart, MD, PhD, FRCPC
Director, Medical Humanities (DMNB)
Associate Professor, Department of Paediatrics
Dr. Stewart is a paediatric neurologist and medical educator. She seeks to provide students and practitioners exposure to the humanities to maintain a sense of self, foster professional identity formation, develop a deeper understanding of the patient experience and to enhance their skills in self-reflection. Her research interests incorporate the use of various humanities media to foster critical thinking and understand the patient experience.
Music is her passion outside medicine. She was classically trained in accordion at the Dundee Accordion School of Music in Scotland and has been playing since she was 9 years old. She has been involved in musical fundraising for more than 20 years and has played with various musical groups and entertained as a soloist, member of a duet and in bands. She is currently a member of the band, The Cool Chicks and the Ugly Doclings, a group of health professionals and one teacher. The band performs regularly to raise funds for not for profit organizations and are well known in the Saint John area. She enjoys the outdoors, specifically paddle boarding, kayaking and cycling.
Administrative secretary, Medical Humanities
AnaBela provides administrative support and is ready to answer all your questions. She is also interested in cooking, sewing, singing, and playing guitar. In the summer you will often find her in her garden.
There is an active Humanities Program at the distributed medical program in Saint John, NB. The distributed program opened its doors to the first students in 2010. Since that time, the students have had the opportunity to be involved in the humanities program and have participated in joint concerts and other activities via video conference with the Halifax site. Want more information? Visit DNMB Humanities at http://medicine.dal.ca/departments/core-units/DMNB/education/facilities.html