Lorelei Lingard, PhD, explores the current landscape of arts and humanities in medical education

By Crystal Mackay
Lorelei Lingard

Can jazz help a future physician better interact with patients? Can reflective writing improve self-awareness and positively influence physician resilience?

These are questions that Lorelei Lingard, PhD, co-lead Tracy Moniz, PhD, and an international team of researchers will explore in a scoping review of arts and humanities in medical education for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The aim of the review is to uncover existing knowledge and evidence when it comes to how arts and humanities are used to educate physicians and interprofessional learners across the medical education spectrum. It is one part of the AAMC’s multi-phase strategic initiative, The Role of the Arts and Humanities in Physician Development: from Fun to Fundamental.

“This grant from the AAMC reflects a recognition that arts and humanities abound and are being used in lots of medical school curricula; but it also demonstrates that we don’t have a systematic, high-level view of the that,” said Lingard, whose team includes researchers from Penn State College of Medicine and Mount Saint Vincent University. Lingard also stated, "This review will allow us to see what is being done, where the knowledge and evidence are to support those initiatives and where the gaps in knowledge exist."


“This review will allow us to see what is being done, where the knowledge and evidence are to support those initiatives and where  the gaps in knowledge exist.” - Lorelei Lingard, PhD


For Lingard, this is especially exciting because it demonstrates an acknowledgement from the AAMC of the importance of arts and humanities in medical education, and what she hopes will lead to an emphasis on integrating it more holistically into medical school curriculum.

“Arts and humanities is at risk of remaining fringe in medicine unless there is a body of knowledge and high level organization who can set expectations and policies,” she said. “It’s exciting because it will make sure that when we are devoting curricular resources to arts and humanities we are basing it on the science of what works.”

Lingard says there is strong literature demonstrating that physicians can treat patients with the best available medicine and procedures, but if they don’t also treat them with the human connection, those medicines and procedures won’t achieve their full potential. She says arts and humanities based curricula can help foster those human connections and boost the ability to engage with emotion – all skills that will make medical students better doctors and will translate to better outcomes for patients.

With funding secured and a team assembled, the group is now working to boil down the literature into a manageable chunk for review and analysis and then will identify the key stakeholders for interviews to elaborate on those findings. One of the most important parts of the interview phase will be asking, where are the gaps in knowledge and why do those gaps exist?

They hope to have the first draft of the review by the end of 2019, and a manuscript submitted for peer review in early 2020.