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Curating the medical humanities curriculum: twelve tips
  1. Allan Peterkin
  1. Correspondence to Dr Allan Peterkin, Program in Health, Artsand Humanities, Mount Sinai Hospital, University of Toronto, 502-412 Jarvis St., Toronto, ON M4Y 2G6, Canada; allan.peterkin{at}

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As the head of a university-wide health humanities programme and a consultant ‘Humanities Lead’ to our medical school, I am often asked how to build arts and humanities-based sessions within the formal medical curriculum, given that teaching schedules are already oversubscribed. In many medical schools, such sessions remain optional or elective and as a result, may be perceived as less important than ‘obligatory content’ by students and faculty. Shapiro has designated this as a form of acquiescence where such teaching becomes ‘ornamental’ to an essentially biomedical model.1 As Bates and Bleakley remind us, the goal of most contemporary arts and humanities educators within medical schools is to have such teaching become provocative, relevant and mandatory so that issues of power and democratisation can be discussed critically and openly, and personal and systemic blind spots can be brought to light.2 Shapiro calls this approach a ‘resistance model’.1

I have established something of a practical compromise, a curricular model of ‘curating’ content around arts and humanities-based themes for our Faculty of Medicine, which can be slotted strategically into available teaching sessions. We are currently undergoing curricular renewal at the University of Toronto and I have now been guaranteed lecture slots to fill with content that has been requested or negotiated.

A curator (from Latin: curare meaning ‘take care of’) is a manager or overseer of diverse yet thematically linked visual or narrative content.

This model has been adopted successfully in educational fields outside of medicine, particularly with respect to digital learning.3

Here are suggestions for applying this model of curricular innovation at your medical school:

  1. Ask faculty at the pre-clerkship and clerkship level what content/sessions would be helpful to them in fleshing out the new or existing curriculum. Compile a list of specific themes that seem to have …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.