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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 23-26  

Introduction of medical humanities in MBBS 1st year

1 Department of Physiology, Smt. NHL Municipal Medical College, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India
2 Department of Physiology, Government Medical College, Bhavnagar, Gujarat, India

Date of Submission26-Apr-2017
Date of Acceptance09-Oct-2017
Date of Web Publication20-Dec-2017

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Shaista M Saiyad
16, Park Plaza Flats, Behind V S Hospital, Ellisbridge, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijabmr.IJABMR_138_17

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Context: Most vital areas of patient management such as empathy, professionalism, and ethics are lacking in fresh undergraduates. These areas are considered to be part of hidden curriculum, and as these are not formally taught, we lack competent medical graduates. Introduction of medical humanities (MH) early in the medical curriculum can help to inculcate required soft skills. Aims: This study aims to develop, administer, and evaluate MH module in 1st year MBBS students. Settings and Design: Module of MH was introduced among 150 1st year MBBS medical students. Subjects and Methods: After taking permission from ethical committee of the institute, a core committee for development of MH module was formed. A standardized validated module for MH comprising of three sessions was formed and was introduced in 1st year MBBS 150 students. Evaluation was done in the form of student and faculty feedback questionnaire, consisting of open- and closed-ended questions. Statistical Analysis Used: Analysis was done using descriptive statistics using mean and standard deviation. Results: According to participants' feedback and perception, mean overall rating of MH module was 4.69, indicating that it was received well by the students. Out of 3 sessions conducted, students gave maximum grades to session 2: cinemeducation. Results of faculty feedback questionnaire indicated that MH is needed and should be introduced in every batch of 1st year MBBS and should be continued longitudinally. Conclusions: Awareness, knowledge, and attitude of students improved as a result of MH module. Our results indicate that such modules should be implemented in undergraduate medical curriculum.

Keywords: 1st year MBBS, medical humanities, module

How to cite this article:
Saiyad SM, Paralikar SJ, Verma AP. Introduction of medical humanities in MBBS 1st year. Int J App Basic Med Res 2017;7, Suppl S1:23-6

How to cite this URL:
Saiyad SM, Paralikar SJ, Verma AP. Introduction of medical humanities in MBBS 1st year. Int J App Basic Med Res [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Jan 21];7, Suppl S1:23-6. Available from: https://www.ijabmr.org/text.asp?2017/7/5/23/221297

   Introduction Top

The scientific revolution was driven by the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo, which spurred a whole change in the understanding of the world around us and beyond us and forced us as humans to rethink our place within it. Human beings used science and reason to navigate the way forward. This age was crystallized by French philosopher Rene Descartes in one phrase: “I think, therefore I am.” The ability to think distinguished us humans from all animals around us.

Today, we are entering a technological revolution. This has forced us to ask a profound question – “What does it mean to be humans in the age of intelligent machines?” The answer is human beings will have one thing that machines will never have: “a heart.” Thus, the technological revolution will force humans to create more value with hearts and between hearts. Science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) jobs will benefit more by creating value with hearts. Attributes such as passion, character, and collaborative spirit cannot be programmed. These attributes can definitely be taught by teaching humanities – arts, music, poetry, history, literature, and philosophy to STEM students. Academics in STEM will have an impact by learning humanities – enabling them to write interesting, contextual narratives for journal articles, and grant applications. Medicine is both a science and art. Medical students, who will be one of the future STEM professionals and academics, can benefit greatly if they are taught the humanities. Our current traditional undergraduate curriculum is such that the qualifying undergraduates are well versed in cognitive and to some extent in skills domain; however, they lack attributes related to affective domain. Most vital areas of patient management such as empathy, professionalism, and ethics are lacking in fresh undergraduates.[1] The real problem is most of affective domain is supposed to be “hidden curriculum,” which the students are supposed to “catch.” Our medical curriculum is largely scientific and evidence based [2] and has forgotten that medicine in addition to being science is also an art. We require “humane” doctors, who can apply evidence-based scientific knowledge with compassion and understanding on patients, as patients are after all humans. The problems of real patients are often related to social, cultural, religious, and spiritual factors, in addition to mere scientific factors, and we need to address these factors too, for a competent Indian Medical Graduate. By introduction of humanities in undergraduate medical curriculum, we can lay foundation of teaching these neglected areas of curriculum.[3],[4] Humanism is considered to be one of the strong pillars of professionalism. The dictionary meaning of “humanities” is “learning or literature concerned with human culture, especially literature, history, art, music, and philosophy.”

Medical humanities (MH) are the application of the techniques of the traditional humanities fields to medical practice. MH have been defined by Evans as an integrated, interdisciplinary, philosophical approach to recording and interpreting human experiences of illness, disability, and medical intervention.[5] Many studies on MH has justified the use of the arts and humanities in terms of the favorable educational outcomes for future doctors.[3],[4] MH has become part of curriculum in medical education in the USA, the United Kingdom, and Australia.[6],[7] The aim of our study was to develop module on humanities for medical students and introduce it among 1st year MBBS students. Objectives were to sensitize and train faculty in MH, prepare a MH module, introduce MH module in 1st year MBBS, and evaluate its effectiveness.

   Subjects and Methods Top

Module of MH was introduced in 150 medical students of 1st year MBBS. Permission of ethics committee of college was obtained before commencement of the project. All faculty members had previous training of Attitude and Communication module. MH module was prepared by core committee members with inputs from external faculty. As the students belonged to preclinical years, a lot of brainstorming was required to come to common consensus regarding topics to be included and appropriate teaching-learning methods to be adopted. The topics covered during sessions included various attributes related to humanities such as empathy, compassion confidentiality, communication, what it means to be sick, duties of a doctor, the doctor–patient relationship. Peer validation of module was done by internal as well as external faculty. Modifications were done after inputs from faculty. After validation, the pilot study was done on 15 students. Modification in module was done according to the results of the pilot study. Feedback questionnaire was prepared and peer validated. Cronbach's alpha value for feedback questionnaire was 0.8. Informed consent was taken from medical students. MH module was introduced to 150 1st year MBBS students in 3 sessions: think pair and share, Cinemeducation, and case scenarios.

All the three sessions were implemented during routine physiology practical classes, wherein students come in group of 30. This group was divided into small group of 15 each. Each small group was facilitated by trained faculty. Each session lasted from 1.5 to 2 h.

Session I of module was introduced in the form of think pair and share in small groups in which attempt was made to extract need of MH from students themselves. Students were asked to recollect their experiences with doctors, either with them or any of their relatives. Leading questions were asked to students like:

Do you feel that all doctors who have ever consulted sympathetic toward you? Did doctor talk in polite manner with you or with patients? Did the doctor give enough time for management of patient? Did doctor give opportunity of talking to you/patient? What according to you could have been done by doctor which could have been satisfactory? Have you heard about litigations by patients against doctors?

Students were asked to discuss in pairs and then discuss in front of whole group. Discussions were built up by facilitators based on responses of students, and thus, need for MH was extracted from students themselves.

Session II of module included Cinemeducation, in which all students were provided with soft copies of a medical series episode involving various attributes of humanities. Students were asked to reflect on attitude of 4 main characters of episode. Leading questions put forth regarding each character like:

Do you think attitude/behavior of character was appropriate? If yes, why and if no, why? What according to you could have been done?

Attempt was made to make students aware of attributes of humanities such as empathy, compassion, communication, duties of doctor, doctor–patient relationship, confidentiality. This was followed by group discussion in small groups.

Session III included case scenarios regarding various aspects of MH. Students were asked to discuss case scenarios among themselves followed by presentation of summary in front of the whole group.

Students were asked to maintain log book throughout implementation of module.

Evaluation of module was done by analysis of student feedback questionnaire comprising of both open- and closed-ended questions and core faculty feedback questionnaire comprising of open- and closed-ended questionnaire.

   Results Top

Out of 150 students, 148 students attempted the feedback questionnaire comprising of open- as well as closed-ended questionnaire. Mean overall rating of the module was 4.69 (1 = Poor, 2 = Average, 3 = Satisfactory, 4 = Good, 5 = Excellent), indicating that it was received well by the students. Out of 3 sessions conducted, students gave maximum grades to session 2: Cinemeducation [Table 1].
Table 1: Results of student feedback questionnaire regarding individual sessions (n=148)

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Results of analysis of open-ended questions showed learning by students. Students learned various attributes related to MH such as meaning of MH and its importance; attributes of MH including empathy, compassion, communication; meaning of confidentiality, empathy, compassion; duties of a doctor; and importance of appropriate communication. Students particularly liked new approach to teaching-learning; novel topic; cinemeducation; small group activity; and interactivity. Students were also of the opinion that MH is needed in undergraduate curriculum and module should be introduced every year.

However, students were of the opinion that time allotted to each session was less; number of faculties was less; time allotted to each student for discussion was less; and group was large.

Students also gave certain suggestions for improvement such as time allotted to each session should be increased; more sessions should be included; and sessions should continue throughout 1st year MBBS.

Faculties were of the opinion that teaching MH was time-consuming; MH improved communication between faculties and students, as well as among students; case scenarios should be modified; and more sessions should be prepared [Table 2].
Table 2: Faculty feedback results (n=9)

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   Discussion Top

Introduction of MH modules in many foreign universities have shown positive effects on improvement of knowledge and attitudes among medical students.[6],[7] Dhaliwal et al, have proposed ABCDE paradigm – an integrated, interdisciplinary MH approach to teach medical students – comprising of: appropriate, analytical attitude, ethical and professional behavior, effective communication, respect for diversity, empathy.[8] The MH group at University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi has been organizing a series of workshops “Theatre of the oppressed” to explore MH.[9] MH can have both instrumental and noninstrumental functions in medical curriculum.[7] At KIST Medical College, Nepal, a MH module was conducted for faculty. Their result concluded that the module was well appreciated by faculty.[10] In our study too, the module was appreciated and well taken by faculty. Faulty was of the opinion that though the module was time-consuming, it was necessary for undergraduates and should be introduced in every batch of MBBS students. Such modules should be spread longitudinally for maximum impact on Indian Medical Graduates. MH module titled “Sparshanam” had been conducted for 1st year medical students, using literature through small group activities, case scenarios, role plays, debates, etc., with encouraging results.[11] In our study too, the students feedback was encouraging. The students particularly liked the novel method of teaching-learning, interactivity, and small group discussions which facilitated their learning. Out of teaching-learning methods used, students gave Cinemeducation high ratings, indicating that Cinemeducation can be effectively used for making students learn attitudinal domain. Rogozhnikova in his study has concluded that humane attitude to a person is an urgent pedagogical problem and medical students lacked appropriate knowledge regarding it.[12] While conducting sessions on MH, we realized that students lacked knowledge and attitude regarding humanities. Students could grasp basic fundamentals of humanities as is evident from their feedback regarding what they learnt during sessions. Study by Gurtoo et al.[13] concluded that the positive response of students toward MH module was indicator that it could be integrated within undergraduate medical curriculum. In our study, both students as well as faculties were of the opinion that MH curriculum should be included as part of medical curriculum. Introducing it as part of regular curriculum may solve many issues regarding its implementation such as shortage of time, trained faculty, and required infrastructure. Caroline Wachtler [14] in his study had concluded the same. Gurtoo et al.[13] in their study concluded that acceptability and feasibility of MH curriculum were high. Students in preclinical years are highly receptive and this can be exploited to mold them to imbibe various attributes of humanities. However, for more effective impact, MH module should be developed and implemented longitudinally so that students go on adding on their perceptions and awareness of various aspects of humanities, as they move forward in their medical curriculum.

   Conclusions Top

Development and introduction of MH module was well taken by the students as well as faculties. Our results indicate that such modules should be implemented in undergraduate medical curriculum. Introducing MH module has huge potential to improve competency of medical graduates. This in turn will lead to better doctor–patient relationship, resulting in less conflicts, benefiting health care system as a whole.


We would like to thank Dr. Tejinder Singh sir, Dr. Dinesh Badyal sir, Dr. Anil Kapoor sir, Dr. Satendra Singh sir, esteemed FAIMER faculty of CMC Ludhiana and faculty of Smt. NHLMMC, for their constant support and guidance.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Hojat M, Mangione S, Nasca TJ, Rattner S, Erdmann JB, Gonnella JS, et al. An empirical study of decline in empathy in medical school. Med Educ 2004;38:934-41.  Back to cited text no. 1
Cate T, Th J, De Haes JC. Summative assessment of medical students in the affective domain. Med Teach 2000;22:40-3.  Back to cited text no. 2
Shapiro J, Morrison E, Boker J. Teaching empathy to first year medical students: Evaluation of an elective literature and medicine course. Educ Health (Abingdon) 2004;17:73-84.  Back to cited text no. 3
Lancaster T, Hart R, Gardner S. Literature and medicine: Evaluating a special study module using the nominal group technique. Med Educ 2002;36:1071-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
Evans HM, Greaves D. Medical humanities among the healing arts? Med Humanit 2002;28:57-60.  Back to cited text no. 5
Spike JP. Developing a medical humanities concentration in the medical curriculum at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York, USA. Acad Med 2003;78:983-6.  Back to cited text no. 6
Macnaughton J. The humanities in medical education: Context, outcomes and structures. Med Humanit 2000;26:23-30.  Back to cited text no. 7
Dhaliwal U, Singh S, Singh N. Promoting Competence in Undergraduate Medical Students Through the Humanities: The ABCDE Paradigm. RHiME; Jun, 2015. Available from: http://rhime.in/ojs/index.php?journal=rhime&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=16&path%5B%5D=pdf_8. [Last accessed on 2017 Dec 01].  Back to cited text no. 8
Gupta S, Agrawal A, Singh S, Singh N. Theatre of the oppressed in medical humanities education: The road less travelled. Indian J Med Ethics 2013;10:200-3.  Back to cited text no. 9
Shankar PR, Piryan RM, Karki BM. A medical humanities module for the faculty members of the Kist Medical College, Imadol, Lalitpur. J Clin Diagn Res 2011;5:1489-92.  Back to cited text no. 10
Shankar PR, Singh KK, Dhakal A, Shakya A, Piryani RM. Student feedback about the use of literature excerpts in Sparshanam, a Medical Humanities module. F1000Res 2012;1:49.  Back to cited text no. 11
Rogozhnikova RA. Development of humane attitude to a person in the process of professional training of medical students. Middle East J Sci Res 2013;13:69-73.  Back to cited text no. 12
Gurtoo A, Ranjan P, Sud R, Kumari A. A study of acceptability and feasibility of integrating humanities based study modules in undergraduate curriculum. Indian J Med Res 2013;137:197-202.  Back to cited text no. 13
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Wachtler C, Lundin S, Troein M. Humanities for medical students? A qualitative study of a medical humanities curriculum in a medical school program. BMC Med Educ 2006;6:16.  Back to cited text no. 14


  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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