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Year : 2012  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 73-79

Introducing medical humanities in the medical curriculum in Saudi Arabia: A pedagogical experiment

1 Emeritus Professor of Urology, King Saud University Medical College, Riyadh, Formerly Visiting Professor History of Medicine and Medical Ethics, Alfaisal University Medical College, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 Dean and Professor of Surgery, Alfaisal University Medical College, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Rabie E Abdel-Halim
90 Heathfield Rd, Wavertree, Liverpool L15 9HA, Merseyside, United Kingdom

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DOI: 10.4103/0974-7796.95549

PMID: 22629000

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In a marked shift from the modern positivist materialist philosophy that influenced medical education for more than a century, Western medical educators are now beginning to realize the significance of the spiritual element of human nature. Consensus is currently building up in Europe and North America on the need to give more emphasis to the study of humanities disciplines such as history of medicine, ethics, religion, philosophy, medically related poetry, literature, arts and medical sociology in medical colleges with the aim of allowing graduates to reach to the heart of human learning about meaning of life and death and to become kinder, more reflective practitioners. The medicine taught and practiced during the Islamic civilization era was a vivid example of the unity of the two components of medical knowledge: natural sciences and humanities. It was also a brilliant illustration of medical ethics driven by a divine moral code. This historical fact formed the foundation for the three medical humanities courses presented in this article reporting a pedagogical experiment in preparation for starting a humanities program in Alfaisal University Medical College in Riyadh. In a series of lectures alternating with interactive sessions, active learning strategies were employed in teaching a course on history of medicine during the Islamic era and another on Islamic medical ethics. Furthermore, a third course on medically relevant Arabic poetry was designed and prepared in a similar way. The end-of-the-course feedback comments reflected effectiveness of the courses and highlighted the importance of employing student-centered learning techniques in order to motivate medical students to become critical thinkers, problem solvers, life-long learners and self-learners.

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