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Medical Humanities in Physician Assistant Education

1 August 2006


Background: At first glance it appears that medical schools use humanities much more often than physician assistant (PA) 'schools. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, out of 125 medical schools, 88 offer medical humanities as a course. Out of 135 P A schools, only 6 offer medical humanities as a course. Hypothesis: P A schools use the humanities at a high rate in the teaching of other courses with those schools associated with medical schools doing so at a higher rate than those schools without an association with a medical school. Study Design: Survey Results: Of the 56 responses, 4 (7%) required a medical humanities course as part of their curricula. Two of the 56 (3.6%) schools offered humanities as an elective. At first glance the results seemed to show that physician assistant schools offer medical humanities at a rate much lower than medical schools' rate of70%. However, a closer look shows that only 12.5% (7 of the 56) do not include humanities as part of their curricula. 51.9% of the respondents indicated that they use humanities in the teaching of ethics courses. The same can be said for cultural diversity classes; again, 51.9% of the schools use humanities to teach a course that is not labeled "medical humanities." The study also showed that over 30% of the schools use humanities in the teaching of traditional medical courses (internal medicine etc.) Another way to look at the same numbers is to say that 87.5% of P A schools use humanities as at least a tool for teaching and learning. Conclusion: This study showed that most schools use humanities as a tool to teach courses, even if humanities is not offered as a class on its own. This study showed that the subject of humanities is not necessarily being taught at a high rate in PA schools, but it also showed that humanities are being used at a high rate to reinforce and strengthen classes that are already being offered.


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