Medical humanities: to cure sometimes, to relieve often, to comfort always

Jill Gordon
Med J Aust 2005; 182 (1): 5-8.


  • The medical humanities are concerned with “the science of the human”, and bring the perspectives of disciplines such as history, philosophy, literature, art and music to understanding health, illness and medicine.

  • The medical humanities are designed to overcome the separation of clinical care from the “human sciences” and to foster interdisciplinary teaching and research to optimise patient care.

  • Medical humanities have become part of the mainstream in medical education in North America and the United Kingdom, and are now integrated into many medical curricula in Australia.

  • The Australasian Association for Medical Humanities was inaugurated in November 2004; a postgraduate program in the medical humanities began at the University of Sydney in 2003.

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  • Jill Gordon

  • Faculty of Arts, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.


The Masters degree in Medical Humanities at the University of Sydney owes its inspiration to Associate Professor Joanne Finkelstein, Dean for Postgraduate Coursework in the Faculty of Arts. She recognised the possibilities offered by such a program, and initiated and fostered its development.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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