Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Doctor of humanity

A few years ago, a physician, who is a few years older than me, mentioned during a conversation that his four years of undergraduate studies were a waste, and that he could have directly gone to medical school.  He was especially critical of the general education that he was compelled to take.

I was his house-guest. The protocols required me to stay away from picking a fight with the host.  And that is what I did.

We rarely ask ourselves what makes a good doctor.  Of course, we want them to know the tools of the trade, so to speak.  We want doctors to be knowledgeable, just like we would want any professional to be.  But, is it merely about the technical proficiency?  If so, why should we require the 18-year old coming to college with plans to become a doctor to take philosophy and religion classes, among other such "waste"?
medical students who are exposed to the humanities demonstrate higher levels of positive skills and qualities such as empathy, tolerance for ambiguity, wisdom, emotional appraisal, self-efficacy, and spatial reasoning—all important in being a competent, good doctor.
The same study found that humanities exposure is inversely correlated with negative qualities that can be detrimental to physician well-being, such as intolerance to ambiguity, physical fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and cognitive weariness.
Humanities majors may be more likely to pursue residencies in primary care and psychiatry—both areas where there is tremendous need.
Humanities exposure can arguably benefit patients by making better doctors and it may also be beneficial for the individual physician.
There's quite a bit to being a good doctor, eh!
Humanities exposure can arguably benefit patients by making better doctors and it may also be beneficial for the individual physician.
In this era of increasing dissatisfaction within the medical profession, a doctor also needs the tools to develop and nurture her own humanity so that she can continue her work, healthy in mind and body. Patients deserve a doctor who is thoughtful, professional, compassionate, understanding, humble, collaborative, wise, and knowledgeable. And while there are many factors in the development of a physician, humanities education is one important avenue toward making better doctors.
Ah, yes, but we need more welders than philosophers, right? Shut down those philosophy departments!

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