Medical humanities research is approached differently from the natural sciences where data and hard evidence are required to draw conclusions. Because the human experience cannot be adequately captured by facts and figures alone, humanities research employs methods that are historical, interpretive and analytical in nature.

Those engaged in humanities research pose questions about common assumptions, uncover new meanings in artistic works, or find new ways to understand cultural interactions. They are interested in raising questions and offering strong but tentative answers, not indisputable solutions.


MHP Program Evaluation at the University of Ottawa

Dr. Pippa Hall, an adjunct professor in the Department of Medicine and a content expert for the UGME Medicine and the Humanities program, has a particular interest in the role of arts and humanities in interprofessional collaboration. She is the principle investigator at the University of Ottawa for a longitudinal evaluation of the Undergraduate Medical Education curriculum change, which is infusing more arts and humanities into the medical program.

This is a multi-site evaluation involving co-investigators: Ayelet Kuper, University of Toronto; Karen Trollope-Kumar, McMaster University; Michael G. DeGroote, McMaster University; Dr. Rob Whyte, McMaster University; Cynthia Whitehead, University of Toronto; Elaine Van Melle, Queens University and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons; and Jean Roy, University of Ottawa. The study is funded by the Associated Medical Services [AMS] Phoenix Fellowship and Research Renewal Grant; University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine (Undergraduate Medical Education and Physical Therapy); McMaster Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine; Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa.

Development and Evaluation of a Program to Introduce Humanities to Teachers of Clinical Medicine

The medical humanities can enrich teaching and offer “a particularly effective means for developing observational and interpretive skills, [and] increasing insight into human nature” (Brett-Maclean, 2007).

Despite their identified value, specific templates for faculty teaching in the medical humanities are only beginning to emerge. To encourage faculty to incorporate the arts and humanities, family physician Dr. Leonard Bloom and a University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine research team received a Department of Family Medicine, Program for Innovation in Medical Education (PIME) grant to design, conduct and evaluate faculty development training sessions in the medical humanities. It was anticipated that the provision of a theoretical overview of four defined areas, narrative medicine, history of medicine, visual thinking strategies, and theatrical methods and medicine, combined with reflective exercises and teaching tools within each area, would assist faculty in the subsequent introduction of humanities-based material in small group teaching. Findings indicated that participants enjoyed the sessions, that they were inspired to use the material in their teaching, but that more training will be required within each area for participants to gain facility incorporating humanities material and methods.


Bloom, L: Department of Family Medicine and Department of Innovation in Medical Education (DIME), Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa

Bloom, LF: Department of Innovation in Medical Education (DIME), Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa

Archibald, D: Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa

Robertson, C: Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa

Parson, R: Office of Continuing Professional Development, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa

Arseneau, M: Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Ottawa

Roy, J: Department of Family Medicine and Department of Innovation in Medical Education (DIME), Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa

Mindfulness Research

Mindfulness practice and research are concepts fundamental to the arts and humanities. Three key faculty members are leading research into mindfulness at the University of Ottawa. They are Drs. Heather MacLean, Carol Gonsalves and Millaray Sanchez-Campos. Their work is supported by grants from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine departments of Medicine and Family Medicine and the Department of Innovation in Medical Education at the University of Ottawa, as well as from the Canadian Physician Health Institute. They have presented their work at medical education conferences across Canada and the United States.

  • Dr. Carol Gonsalves is a clinician educator and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology, at the University of Ottawa and The Ottawa Hospital, as well as a clinician investigator with the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. Her academic focus is on medical education, specifically in the areas of needs assessment and curriculum development. She received her Master of Medical Education in 2012, and has held a committee position in Faculty Wellness at the University of Ottawa since 2008, supporting a specific personal and professional interest in the benefits of mindfulness on student and physician health. She was a member of the Mindfulness Curriculum Working Group at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine, which launched a longitudinal curriculum in mindfulness in 2014. Dr. Gonsalves has also assisted in editing the course material and teaches in this curriculum. She is a co-founder of the Mindfulness in Medicine Journal Club at the University of Ottawa.

  • Dr. Heather MacLean is the co-director of pre-clerkship and an assistant professor of Neurology in the Department of Medicine at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine and The Ottawa Hospital. She has published a book on mindfulness for undergraduate medical students, and, with her colleagues, is leading research in mindfulness at uOttawa’s Faculty of Medicine. 

  • Dr. Millaray Sanchez-Campos is an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine. In 2012, she developed and piloted a three-hour mandatory workshop entitled “Mindfulness in Clinical Practice” for third year medical students, which is now part of the curriculum. She has significantly contributed to the development and implementation of the longitudinal undergraduate mindfulness curriculum launched in 2014. 



Varpio L, Grassau P, Hall P. Using the Listening Guide and Visual Rhetoric to Look and Listen for Learning in Arts- and Humanities-Based Creations. Medical Education 2016 (in press).

Hall, P, Brajtman S, Weaver L, Grassau P, Varpio L. Learning Collaborative Teamwork: An Argument for Incorporating the Humanities. Journal of Interprofessional Care Journal of Interprofessional Care, 2014;28(6):519-525.

Hall P, Weaver, L, Grassau P. Theories, relationships and interprofessionalism: learning to weave. Journal of Interprofessional Care 2013; 27 (1):73-80.

Hall P, Byszewski A, Sutherland S, Stodel E. Growing a sustainable ePortfolio program: fostering reflective practice and incorporating CanMEDS competencies into the undergraduate curriculum. Academic Medicine 2012; 87(6):744-751.

Hall P, Weaver L, Willett T.  Addressing suffering through an interprofessional online module:

Learning with, from and about each other. . J Pall Care 2011; 27(3):244-246.

Hall  P, Marshall D, Taniguchi A, Weaver L, Boyle A. A Method to Enhance Student Teams in Palliative Care: The McMaster-Ottawa Team Objective Structured Clinical Encounter (TOSCE). Journal of Palliative Medicine 2011; 14(6): 744-750.

Weaver, L., McMurtry, A., Brajtman, S. & Hall, P. (2011). Harnessing Complexity Science for Interprofessional Education Development: A Case Study. Journal of Research in Interprofessional Practice and Education, 2(1). Retrieved from

Hall P.  The arts in the education of medical learners. The International Journal of the Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice, 2009 Commentary accessed 11/03/2009.

Bloom, LF. The transformative power of creative expression. Social Work Bulletin, Article: Spring, 41 (1) 10-11, 2015. 

Chapter in Book 

Bloom, LF & Spector, NMP Finding ways forward:  social justice for counsellors in the evolution of a collaborative practice study group. In: Audette C & and Paré DA Social Justice and Counselling. New York: Routledge. Forthcoming 2016. 


C. Gonsalves.  (2015.)  Mindful Medical Practice:  Clinical Narratives and Therapeutic Insights.  Chapter 23 [Dobkin]. Switzerland.  Springer International Publishing

C. Gonsalves.   Are You a Human Being or a Human Doing?  The role for Mindfulness in Our Lives.  International Journal of Whole Person Care. 2015; vol. 2, No. 1:50-52. 

MacLean, H.  Mindfulness for Medical School, Residency and Beyond.  Apple iBook.  August 2014.