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Books, Journals, New Media
July 27, 2005

Medical Humanities

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; Journal Review Editor: Brenda L. Seago, MLS, MA, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University.

JAMA. 2005;294(4):495-500. doi:10.1001/jama.294.4.499

Can reading works of literature help a physician practice better medicine? If so, how might this be accomplished? Short stories, poetry, and novels have often been used to help medical students reflect on various aspects of patient care and professional development. Medical humanities and ethics courses have become increasingly prevalent in medical school curricula. However, the effects of this training have not been measured. It seems to make sense that reading a story like “The Death of Ivan Illych” might help a student to anticipate some aspects of caring for dying patients. But what specifically does one learn from literature that is useful or even indispensable to providing excellent patient care?

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