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J Med Humanit. 1995;16(3):155-74.

Infiltrating the curriculum: an integrative approach to history for medical students.


I believe that the purpose of history in a medical school can be related to two simple goals: first, to make students a bit skeptical about everything else they are to be taught in the other lectures--skepticism fosters humility and life-long learning; second, to make them aware that medical history is a research discipline as compelling as any of the basic and clinical sciences they are traditionally taught. In the fall of 1988, I was given an opportunity to build a "course" in history for medical students--a course with no fixed time slot, no fixed syllabus, and no fixed content. I wanted to teach history of anatomy during anatomy sessions, history of pathology during pathology, history of obstetrics during obstetrics, and so on. I hoped to end each session with a disciplinary controversy that extended into present practice. The ultimate manifestation of infiltration would be to have one question on every exam that the students would write during their medical school experience. This is the story of how my medical history teaching moved from nothing to a program integrated throughout four years of medical studies, complete with goals and objectives and two questions of every exam. The content, advantages, and problems of the approach in the Queen's University experience will be presented.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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