Making the Case for History of Medical Education David Jones, Jeremy Greene, Jacalyn, Duffin, John Harley Warnert Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences. Vol 70, No.4 (2014).

Journal Club Entry by Michael P.H. Stanley, TUSM-Maine Track Program, M18

The history of history in medical education has waxed and waned since as far back as the 18th century. At its zenith in the 1950s and 1960s nearly half of all medical schools had some formal historical teaching, if not full-professorships and sometimes entire history of medicine departments.  In 2001, over 100 of 174 medical schools surveyed had no history offerings or were unsure if they did.  The authors of this paper diverge from more traditional arguments that history of medicine should be considered as one of a number of medical humanities offerings primarily in service of the core domain of Professionalism. Instead they propound that history of medicine is “an essential component of medical knowledge, reasoning, and practice.” The authors assert that by demonstrating how the history of medicine readily engages our competency-based educational objectives, the field can gain acceptance as a regular feature in medical educational curricula.

Discussion questions:

  1. If history of medicine has continued to thrive, why has its introduction and maintenance in medical school curricula waxed and waned so considerably over time?
  2. How is history of medicine different from and similar to other medical humanities (such as narrative medicine, medical ethics, medical aesthetics, etc?). How is it different from and similar to reductionist or natural science medical subjects (such as pathophysiology, biochemistry, etc?).
  3. Is trying to justify history of medicine’s inclusion in medical school curricula through competency-based education inappropriately ascribing reductive measurements to an unmeasurable field? How might programs measure competency or otherwise assess medical students in history of medicine?
  4. Where do you find opportunities for inclusion of history of medicine in your own experience of medical education?

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