Posted on December 05, 2018

The role of the medical humanities in improving understanding of both disease and wellness was explored at a two-day conference organized by Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q).

The Medical Humanities in the Middle East Program brought senior academics in the fields of medicine and the humanities from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and North America together at the Sheraton Hotel to discuss the impact on perceptions of health and disease of a broad spectrum of humanities subjects, including literature, history, politics, religion, art and art therapy, and medical ethics, among others.

The conference began with a keynote speech by Dr. Mohammed Ghaly of the College of Islamic Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) on Islamic perspectives on ethical issues relating to genomics. There then followed a series of presentations by expert speakers arranged in five sessions addressing the arts and healing, humanities and literature, sociological and historical approaches to understanding healthcare, medical ethics, and culture and its impact on the clinic. Academics and professionals were in attendance from institutions including WCM-Q, Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatargas, Boston University School of Medicine, King’s College London, the American University of Beirut, University College London, and many others.

Dr. Alan Weber, professor of English at WCM-Q and a member of the organizing committee of the event, said: “The medical humanities have emerged as important and useful tools for helping medical practitioners, academics and students reconcile the pressing sociological, economic, philosophical and ethical issues that arise in the practice of medicine. This conference brought together experts from all over the world to discuss these issues, with the ultimate goal of discovering how far and in what ways humanistic approaches to medicine and the teaching of medicine can improve patient outcomes.”

The event featured presentations of abstracts of 24 research projects on topics such as the use of art therapy in medical settings for dealing with grief, the role of storytelling in trauma therapy, the impact of fluorescent lighting on Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and the challenges of integrating the humanities into medical curricula.

WCM-Q’s Dr. Mohamud Verjee, associate professor of family medicine in clinical medicine/assistant dean for medical student affairs, gave a presentation and submitted an abstract examining the importance and nature of the listening skills deployed by physicians when conducting consultations with patients. Dr. Verjee said: “In the clinical setting, a physician’s behavior and attitude towards a patient are observed, and acknowledged, followed by implicit trust. The capacity to listen to patients’ histories is not limitless. Attentive listening is manifestly important. Not only is it essential to elicit the nature of a visit but what matters to the patient, and how they feel.” Dr. Verjee was also a member of the organizing committee, along with Ms. Jamie Gray, director of the Distributed eLibrary at WCM-Q.

The conference also saw research posters presented by Dr. Linda Miller of Imperial College London on ‘Graphic medicine as a reflective tool for self-efficacy and motivation’ and Dr. Tsai Pi-hua of Mackay Medical College in Taipei, Taiwan on ‘Preparing medical students for the writing of history of present illness: Marching from short story reading and the practice of visual art’.

Ms. Gray said: “Improved understanding of the human context that defines the giving and receiving of healthcare can ultimately lead to improved healthcare outcomes. We are therefore extremely grateful to all who participated in this conference and shared their valuable insights into the ways the humanities can be successfully integrated into medical education programs.”

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