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Addiction is a pervasive medical and sociological concern, and yet its presence is still met with stigma, even within the healthcare community. There is an extensive literature documenting the negative attitudes of medical trainees and professionals towards substance users, but there does appear to be hope: expert-led clinical experience and addiction-focused teaching seem to increase empathy and inspire confidence in treating substance users.1 However, there is still much work to be done. Although a number of educational interventions have demonstrated efficacy, none has been implemented on a widespread basis, likely due to time pressures in already-packed curricula.2
The two of us, a medical humanist and an addiction psychiatrist, decided to take an alternate approach and use literature as a means of teaching about addiction, while simultaneously attempting to humanise it. We created ‘Literature and Addiction’, an interdisciplinary seminar within the Master Scholars Program in Humanistic Medicine at New York University School of Medicine (NYUSoM). Enrolment is open to anyone affiliated with NYUSoM, but the majority of participants have been first-year and second-year medical students. The seminar is paracurricular, and has run for three semesters now. Recent research suggests that educational interventions using literature and writing can help fortify empathy against erosion during medical …
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