In order to develop more human-oriented physicians and to understand more fully the human dimension of disease, the emerging field of medical humanities is increasingly being integrated into medical education internationally. These interdisciplinary efforts attempt to address the sociological, economic, philosophical and ethical issues that doctors, patients, families and society at large must face which go beyond the more technical aspects of medicine such as diagnosis, prognosis, and therapeutics. A growing evidence base indicates that humanistic approaches to healthcare improve patient outcomes, contribute to better compliance and better provider-patient relations, and reduce medical error and liability. In addition, Expressive Arts Therapies, such as Music, Art, Narrative, and Play Therapies, use the arts themselves as a healing practice.
According to Rabie E. Abdel-Halim and Khaled M. AlKattan of Alfaisal and King Saud Universities in Riyadh, “it is very crucial to strike a harmonious balance between the two major branches of knowledge; namely, natural sciences and technology in one hand and social sciences and humanities in the other. The importance of striking a harmonious balance is increasingly felt to match with the growing detrimental effects of the already well-established and strong-rooted materialism. We have to be able to produce not only [medical] graduates with great mental and intellectual capability but also with strong emotional and spiritual stability.”
The conference will bring together researchers, educators, and practitioners to help define and share best practices in the medical humanities in the Middle East and North Africa region. Currently many of the medical humanities curricula and initiatives are based on western practices, and more discussions are needed to imagine what human-centered health systems might look like in Muslim-majority countries in which religion and traditional values play such a key role.
As Halil Tekiner of Erciyes University School of Pharmacy in Kayseri, Turkey argues, concepts “such as autonomy and truth telling may clash with non-Western cultural mores; and attitudes toward end-of-life care, abortion, and genetic engineering may differ across cultures. … incorporating local experiences in medical humanities courses will also help students to recognize and appropriately address some culture-specific bias that occurs in health care delivery in their own countries.”