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Medical humanities: a personal view
  1. D Kirklin
  1. Correspondence to:
 D Kirklin
 Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Royal Free and University College Medical School, Archway Campus, 2nd Floor Holborn Union Building, 2-10 Highgate Hill, London N19 5LW, UK; d.kirklin{at}

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The undergraduate medical curriculum at the Peninsula Medical School (PMS) is unusual in that, from its inception, it has been designed with medical humanities as an integral part of the core curriculum. Although those designing the curriculum were clearly convinced of the benefits of this approach, little was known about how local consultants, who would soon take up roles as clinical teachers at PMS, would respond. Lynn Knight decided a good starting point was to find out how familiar these clinicians were with the term medical humanities and what, if anything, it meant to them. The results of her qualitative study form the basis of this issue’s Education and Debate paper.1 Research participants were not alerted to this central objective but were instead invited to discuss in broad terms the sorts of attitudes and values they were hoping to be able to share with medical students in their roles as clinician teachers. Only then was the term medical humanities introduced. According to Knight ‘many clinicians had not heard of the term before, some were unsure what it meant, others displayed contempt for it.’

These results, whilst interesting, will I suspect come as no surprise to readers of this journal. Given the fact that there is far from universal agreement amongst medical humanities scholars and educators about what this term encompasses it would perhaps be unrealistic to expect clinicians outside of the field to do better. Such, however, was the extent of the confusion amongst these clinicians that Lynn Knight suggests ‘educators in the area need to either …

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