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The Program in Narrative and Healthcare Humanities



Many healthcare faculties in North America and Europe have come to emphasize evidence-based medicine and clinical research at the expense of creating a milieu where the aesthetic and humanistic approaches to patient care can be explored and validated. A growing international literature on the impact of exposure to the medical humanities demonstrates that physicians, nurses, and other healthcare workers who pursue creative, artistic and intellectual interests inside and outside of clinical work are more likely to bring curiosity and sensitivity to their exchanges with patients. Cultivating narrative competence (the capacity to read, write and share complex, fully embodied stories) enhances interviewing skills, empathy and the capacity to bear witness to suffering. Healers who cultivate a humanistic approach throughout their careers, from students to clinician or teacher, often report higher levels of professional satisfaction, vocational renewal, personal well-being and resilience to stress.


Mission Statement

Healthcare Humanities is an interdisciplinary endeavour, drawing on the strength of scholarship in literature, film, the visual arts, music, philosophy, ethics, theology and history. The goal of the exchanges which our Program will promote is to broaden the healer's cultural experience, to honour imagination, and to link affective and cognitive approaches to our shared task of caregiving. Humanities scholars will be enriched by an ongoing dialogue with colleagues from clinical disciplines and will be invited to help shape the discourse around the perception of health and illness in our learning community.


Initiatives at Mount Sinai Hospital (Toronto)

Fewer than one third of Canadian medical schools have formal humanities initiatives. Our hospital-based initiative has been well-recognized over the last ten years within the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. Over time, an informal, yet ongoing, humanities and literature discussion group, "Psychiatry film nights", for staff and residents and dialogue within Grand Rounds have become vital parts of our Department. We now have monthly "Narrative and Humanities" lunchtime seminars, which have covered topics like Mindfulness in the Hospital Setting, the graphic novel as a teaching tool and "Poisons in Opera".  These have been well attended by staff and students from all disciplines and teaching hospitals as well as humanities scholars. More recent developments have been the emergence of clinical therapeutic writing models for patients living with chronic illness and narrative-based approaches to Consultation-Liaison and Crisis Care. We have enjoyed partnering with the Mount Sinai Psychotherapy Institute.


Ars Medica: Our Program's Journal

In 2005, Ars Medica: A Journal of Medicine, the Arts and Humanities was founded within our Department. Published twice per year, the journal is the only publication of its kind in Canada, and has developed an international readership.  Ars Medica has received two Canadian Council for the Arts awards and pledged funding from the Munk Centre for International Studies. It was recently welcomed into the stable of impressive journals published by the University of Toronto Press. In addition, the editors of Ars Medica have been invited to collaborate with the prestigious Humber School for Writers to offer yearly workshops at Humber College. "Writing about Healing" has been attended by writers within the health professions but also by patients and others who wished to reflect on and write about healthcare and healing. The journal's strong emphasis on inclusiveness has increased the dialogue between healthcare professionals and those they serve.


News and Events


Educational Opportunities and Awards


Narrative-Based Care


Scholarly Initiatives and Curriculum Development

Stay tuned for details on new courses and workshops being offered in healthcare humanities and narrative-based medicine at the University of Toronto. 

We will assist local hospitals in offering Grand Rounds on narrative medicine or medical humanities.  Humanities scholars and artists will be asked to participate in conceptualizing and presenting such Rounds. We will establish a Speaker's Bank of local scholars willing to present at Rounds on a variety of topics of interest to local hospitals and programs outside our teaching network.  Further details to be posted when they are available.



Allan Peterkin MD, Head
Bruce Ballon, MD
Leo Chagoya, MD
Allison Crawford, MD
Bill Gayner, MSW
Julie Hann, OT
Jon Hunter, MD
Rex Kay, MD
Robert Maunder, MD
Paula Ravitz, MD
Michael Roberts, MD
Robin Roger, MA
Donna Romano, RN, PhD
Ronald Ruskin, MD


Our Advisory Board

Dr. Alan Bewell (English)
Dr. Gail Donner (Nursing)
Dr. Robert Gibbs (Humanites)
Dr. Biran Hodges (Wilson Centre)
Dr. Charlie Keil (Film Studies)
Dr. Molyn Leszcz (Psychiatry)
Dr. Paula Ravitz (Psychotherapy)
Ms. Marci Rose (Occupational Therapy)
Dr. Ron Ruskin (Psychoanalysis)
Dr. Ross Upshur (Ethics)
Dr. Lynn Wilson (Family Medicine)