The faculties of medicine at the University of Ottawa and Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (UCBL) took a major step forward in September by making the teaching of humanities in medicine an essential guiding principle in both institutions.
The two institutions have had a strong and long-standing partnership, which began in 2015 and was renewed in April 2021 until April 2026.
The partnership is built around seven areas of collaboration: undergraduate student internships, teacher training, excellence in residency training, strengthening cooperation in biomedical research, a leadership training program, collaboration between the departments of family medicine of the University of Ottawa and the Collège Universitaire de Médecine Générale, and a medicine and humanities program.
It was the latter area that was in the spotlight on Wednesday, September 20, with the signing of by the Dean of the uOttawa Faculty of Medicine Bernard Jasmin, the Dean of the UCBL Faculty of Medicine Gilles Rode, and UCBL President Frédéric Fleury.
Health humanities is an interdisciplinary field of medicine that includes the humanities, social sciences, the arts and their applications to health care. Combined with the teaching of core and clinical disciplines, they help to promote a new medical humanism.
This new humanism is based on respect for all dimensions of the human person: physical, psychological, social, cultural and spiritual, while also taking into account societal and environmental trends.
Dean Jasmin, who made a special trip to Lyon for the signing ceremony and to cultivate other aspects of the partnership including biomedical research and medical education, told the gathered assembly at the signing, “When we thought of the humanities in medicine, we thought of all the ways in which doctors, nurses, patients and researchers are human beings acting in a human world. Of course, medical science forms the basis of clinical practice: it provides answers to multiple-choice questions. But clinical practice is not limited to questions with A to D answers. It is the medical humanities that enable us to consider how to encourage patients to become involved in their own healing, how to respond compassionately to suffering, and how to act when we find ourselves at the limits of our scientific knowledge.”
The Charter commits not only the two faculties but also their students to the goal of enriching medical training and guaranteeing quality care focused on humanity and social accountability.
The Faculty is thus committed to promoting teaching that integrates health humanities throughout the medical curriculum, by fostering an interdisciplinary approach and encouraging research in this field. In addition, it values the active involvement of patients in pedagogical thinking and teaching, while supporting educational initiatives by both faculty members and students in the field of health humanities. The Faculty also encourages the development of emotional intelligence, understanding complexity in health care, and the fight against all forms of discrimination, whether ethnic, social, cultural, religious, or based on gender or sexual orientation. The Faculty promotes social accountability and an appreciation of the intrinsic beauty of science, while advocating a democratic approach based on respect for all perspectives and experiences involved.
Students commit to respecting the dignity of every person, whether suffering or not, by being available and attentive to patients. They are committed to serving patients with a personalized relationship, developing their emotional intelligence, maintaining their independence and free will, while being actively involved in social accountability initiatives and fully integrating the health humanities into their studies and medical practice.
In practical terms, the Health Humanities Charter requires teachers to adapt their teaching methods to include more of the health humanities, promote ethical reflection, and encourage patient involvement in medical education. For students, this means having a more holistic approach to medicine by integrating emotional and cultural aspects into their clinical practice, along with active involvement in social accountability projects.
Further guidance and next steps for implementation of the charter requirements will be communicated as it becomes available.