In Comfort Measures Only, Rafael Campo bears witness to the unspeakable beauty bound up with human suffering. Gathered from his over twenty-year career as a poet-physician, these eighty-nine poems—thirty-one of which have never been previously published in a collection—pull back the curtain in the ER, laying bare our pain and joining us all in spellbinding moments of pathos. The poet, who is also truly a healer, revives language itself—its sounds channeled through our hearts and lungs, its rhythms amplified through the stethoscope—to make meaning of our bewilderment when our bodies so eloquently and yet wordlessly fail us. Campo’s transcendent poems, in all their modernity amidst the bleep of heart monitors and the wail of ambulance sirens, remind us of what the ancients understood: that poetry sustains us, and whether we live or die, through what we can imagine and create in our shared voices we may yet achieve immortality.
To inform medical education reform efforts, we systematically collected information on the level of arts and humanities engagement in our medical school community. Attitudes regarding incorporating arts and humanities-based teaching methods into medical education and patient care were also assessed. An IRB-approved survey was electronically distributed to all faculty, residents, fellows, and students at our medical school. Questions focused on personal practice of the arts and/or humanities, as well as perceptions of, and experience with formally incorporating these into medical teaching. Of 13,512 community members surveyed, 2,775 responded (21% overall response rate). A majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that medical education and patient care could be "enhanced" by the integration of the arts (67% and 74% respectively). There was enthusiastic support for the creation of a formal program in the arts at our medical school (72 %). Integration of the arts into medical education may have a role in improving the quality of medical training and would likely be well received by teachers and learners.
Since the 1960s, faculty from diverse fields have banded together under the banner of the medical humanities, a term which unites art, literature, history, anthropology, religious studies, philosophy, and other disciplines. Arguments for the relevance of medical humanities often emphasize contributions that any of these disciplines can make to medical education, whether those involve empathy, professionalism, critical reasoning, or tolerating ambiguity. The authors argue that the constituent disciplines of the medical humanities are not interchangeable parts, but represent different perspectives and methodologies that offer their own distinct contributions to medical training. Efforts to define a role for medical humanities in medical education should pursue two strategies in parallel. On the one hand, advocates of the medical humanities should continue to make the case for the shared contributions that all of the disciplines can make to medical education. But advocates for the medical humanities should also emphasize the valuable contributions of each specific discipline, in terms that medical educators can understand. The authors illustrate this point by delineating contributions of their own discipline, medical history. Historical analysis contributes essential insights to the understanding of disease, therapeutics, and institutions-things that all physicians must know in order to be effective as clinicians, just as they must learn anatomy or pathophysiology. Analogous but different arguments can be made for literature, philosophy, and the other disciplines that constitute the medical humanities. The field of medical humanities will be most successful if it builds on both the shared and the distinct contributions of its disciplines.