Medical Humanities

About Medical Humanities

Medical humanities is an interdisciplinary field of medicine that includes the humanities (philosophy, ethics, history, comparative literature, and religion), social science (psychology, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies, health geography), and the arts (literature, theater, film, and visual arts) and their application to medical education and practice. The core strengths of the medical humanities are the imaginative nonconformist qualities and practices.

The FMEC, through its work encouraging creative writing and artistic accomplishments for family physicians and its awards program which recognizes health care providers for their creative writing and visual arts, has been a leader in connecting health care and medicine with the arts, social science, and humanities. In 2022, the FMEC and its expert members began developing an initiative to better support medical schools, residency training, and physicians in practice in understanding and applying the arts and more to medical practice. 


The FMEC’s work is led by Dr. Hugh Silk and an assembled group of faculty and other experts who are helping shape the goals and outcomes.

  • Hugh Silk, MD, MPH, FAAFP, Professor, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health; Instructor, Harvard School of Dental Medicine and Harvard Medical School; Families, Systems, & Health Journal - Sharing Our Stories (humanities) Department, Co-Editor; Family Health Center of Worcester - Primary Care - Homeless Outreach & Advocacy Program/Road to Care Van
  • Philip Day, Assistant Professor and Associate Director of Education in the Dept of Family Medicine and Community Health, UMass Medical School
  • Nicole Defenbaugh, PhD, Associate Professor of Communications at Weber State University in Ogden, UT
  • David Loxterkamp. MD, Family Medicine Faculty, Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center
  • William Miller, MD, MA, Chair of Family Practice, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Allentown, PA
  • Turya Nair, MD, Assistant Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center
  • Jo Marie Reilly, MD, Professor Of Clinical Family Medicine (Educational Scholar), Family Medicine, Keck School of Medicine of USC
  • Johanna Shapiro, MD, PhD, Director, Program in Medical Humanities & Arts, Family Medicine
  • School of Medicine, Stanford University
  • Sara Shields, MD, Professor, University of Massachusetts Medical School, UMass Memorial Medical Center
  • Augusta Sparks Farnum, MA, Artist
  • Jocelyn Wilson, MD, Family Physician, Baylor Scott & White Medical Center, TX
  • Srikala Yedavally-Yellayi, DO, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Assistant Professor, Family Medicine Clerkship Director 

Goals and Objectives

In 2023 and 2024, the FMEC group will 1) launch an interactive database to allow faculty to both submit pieces of art and literature that can be used in medical education, describing how it is used and what topics and competencies it teaches to; and 2) develop, test and circulate a family medicine medical humanities curriculum and conduct training for faculty about medical humanities. 

History and Accomplishments

Under the leadership of Dr. Silk, a group was convened to begin planning work on a project or learning community related to medical humanities. The group met and drafted an outline including an orientation to medical humanities; making the case for why work and training in the medical humanities are important; types of humanities; how to do faculty development; examples of how to combine pieces of art or literature with clinical health topics; and how to assess/evaluate work in medical humanities education. 

The group also presented a 3-hour workshop on medical humanities at the 2021 FMEC Annual Meeting in Pittsburgh, PA. Entitled Seeing, Reading, Listening - Incorporating Medical Humanities into Family Medicine,” the session featured Drs. Silk, Miller, Defenbaugh, and others and introduced the concept of medical humanities, had a live demonstration of teaching with medical humanities and used small groups to build out additional examples. 


Opportunities for Involvement

The FMEC hopes to do more educational programming and convene interested experts and faculty in 2023 to continue to develop its medical humanities project. Watch the FMEC’s website and email communications for more information. To join FMEC and receive member communications, visit the FMEC Member Center

For More Information

Scott G. Allen, MS, CEO, [email protected]   

Updated February 28, 2023