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HEALTH: Treating the Whole Human

We’ve all been there—sitting in a crowded and sterile emergency room, waiting for our number to come up like car owners waiting for their turn to get an oil change—and treated just as impersonally. For too long, the field of medicine evolved without considering or caring about the feelings of the people they were treating, focusing nearly exclusively on the tangible aspects of healing. But there is a growing belief that by including more humanities curriculum within medical training, students can learn to treat the very elements that make us human. Therese “Tess” Jones, director of the Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, makes that her goal.

By the 1970s, thanks to increasing technology, medical schools became giant health science centers focusing on technology and procedure, “and there was this sense that something was missing,” Jones says. “One medical school historian stated that what ultimately became missing was the medical student; that it was so focused on technology and cutting edge information and training that the idea of the human experience of illness, the empathic connection between patient and physician, all of these things were really not a part of the educational world. As patients became more disgruntled, the arts and humanities came to be seen as a corrective for this,” adds Jones.