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Digital medical humanities: stage-to-screen lessons from a five year initiative
  1. Paul D’Alessandro1,
  2. Gerri Frager2
  1. 1 Department of Paediatrics, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2 Department of Paediatrics, IWK Health Centre, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Paul D’Alessandro, Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, BC Children’s Hospital, Rm 2D19, 4480 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC V6H 3V4, Canada; paul.dalessandro{at}

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Translation of curriculum materials to digital formats has become increasingly common. Medical humanities, typically reliant on human interaction to generate emotional impact, represents an interesting means to study engagement with digitised content. While technology-enhanced learning may provide opportunities to integrate humanities into curricula, redesigning sessions for digital use can be resource intensive and ‘requires consideration of the affordances’ of different media.1 As previously reported in BMJ Medical Humanities, guidance for this process—beyond simply, ‘digitising existing content’—remains limited.1 We present a five year educational case study that outlines our successes and struggles with digitising a medical humanities session for undergraduate medical education.

Our model uses, Ed’s Story: the Dragon Chronicles, a verbatim play based exclusively on the journal of a 16 year-old boy with terminal cancer, and 25 interviews conducted after his death with his family, friends and interdisciplinary healthcare team.2 We have described the play’s development and initial curriculum integration elsewhere.2 Concepts of autonomy, interprofessionalism, end of life care, and moral distress were introduced to second year medical students with the play during an oncology block in lieu of a lecture. The session met objectives outlined for both the oncology unit and a longitudinal professional competencies curriculum. A mandatory live viewing (at a theatre venue outside the classroom) received positive feedback.2 To address feasibility challenges, including delivery to distributed sites, subsequent annual sessions employed a digital video disc (DVD.) The DVD was filmed at live performances with audiences present and used multiple camera angles; however, performances and staging were not altered. The in-classroom DVD and postperformance discussions were facilitated by technology-enhanced lecture theatres. Feedback was collected with Research Ethics Board approval using anonymous, web-based …

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