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Looking forward
  1. Allan Peterkin
  1. Correspondence to Dr Allan Peterkin, Medical Humanities, Head, Health, Arts and Humanities Program, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5G1X5, Canada; allan.peterkin{at}utoronto.ca

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Over the last year, I have had the pleasure of attending and presenting at national medical and health humanities meetings in the UK, Canada and the USA. I have been impressed at the rapid expansion of our field worldwide. Clinicians at all stages of their careers are increasingly dedicated to honouring both subjective and ‘evidence-based’ ways of knowing and developing reflective capacity. The role of narrative as a coconstruction of meaning in any healthcare encounter is almost undisputed. I would like to cull some of the key points I have gathered from these meetings and from lively discussions with colleagues about where we are as a community of engaged scholars from many disciplines and where we need to go. I have provided key references which elaborate further on these shared observations. It is important to recognise that different medical schools and clinical faculties even within the same country are at different levels of development in their ability to offer research opportunities and formalised, rigorous teaching in the humanities. Even though medical educators are realising that we have been missing something and that our students and their patients have been suffering for it, many may still require convincing. This usually implies a pragmatic form of instrumentalism to show that ‘all of this works’ and by proof, our more sceptical colleagues usually mean quantitative research. (Though as one colleague put it, ‘Nobody asks the bioethicists to prove themselves!’) The imperative to develop and apply qualitative methodologies for studying arts-based learning as a counter to ‘p value reductionism’ repeatedly rings …

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