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What’s in a Word: Exploring the Multiple Meanings of Humanism in Contemporary Healthcare and Health Professions Education

Creating Space 10

17-18 April 2020, Vancouver, British Columbia

Creating Space was launched in 2010 with a desire to “take the pulse of our shared work from multiple disciplines…as they intersect with health-care experiences in various settings”. In the years that have followed, the conference has annually brought together artists, writers, scholars, clinicians, activists, students and many others to consider the intersections of arts, humanities, and social science (AHSS) disciplines with medical sciences and health professions education. Ten years on, it is clear that that pulse is stronger than ever. From coast to coast to coast, ideas are circulating, dialogues are unfolding, and innovation and scholarship are changing health professions education. As perhaps the latest sign that the health humanities have arrived in force, the 2020 Canadian Conference on Medical Education’s (CCME) theme is “weaving humanism into medical education”. The timing could not be better; educating for humanism in the contemporary world offers a powerful reminder that the lives of others are inextricably bound up in our own.

Putting the concept of humanism into productive practice, however, requires better exploration about how the term is used, what these meanings afford, and even what these definitions may (unintentionally) impair. For example, might humanism be

* a “humane-ism”, a way by which we can educate for empathy towards patients and their illness experiences in the multiple landscapes of healthcare?

* a Renaissance value that needs to inform education and practice in order to confront the rise of antihumanistic practices in both early 21st century healthcare and the world writ large (Thibault 2019)?

* a critical approach that suggests that a medical education centred on biomedicine requires disruption in ways that allow for “making strange” the worlds of health and illness that we come to take for granted (Kumagai 2017)?

* a key to unlock deeper critique of persistent powerful discourses operant in health professions education that privilege certain voices and ways of being over others?

* an approach that is hard to reconcile with contemporary technologies that blur the lines between humans and the material world?

* a Eurocentric concept that may unknowingly reinforce the privileged position of that approach to knowledge and practice in contemporary health professions education?

These examples are not exhaustive. Rather, they are intended to open up conversation and dialogue around humanism in 2020, thicken the description of a potentially transformative concept, better understand its utility and its limitations, and look for ways by which we may better incorporate it into the clinical and educational practices of health care and health professions education.

To this end, Creating Space 10 is seeking submissions that strive to further dialogue in the following areas:

  1. The use of the health humanities to further current health professions education practices on humanism
  1. The use of the health humanities to critique current health professions education practices on humanism
  1. The overlaps and divergences of humanism as a concept in health professions education and practice
  1. Critique of mainstream conceptions of humanism in health professions education

As in the past, the Creating Space conference remains open to exciting off-topic work that does not strictly adhere to the above theme. As such, we also invite submissions in an open format. Further, students – both clinical and non-clinical – and residents are highly encouraged to submit their work.

Target Audience

CS10 seeks students, residents, scholars, educationalists, artists and practitioners whose work involves the intersection of the arts, humanities, and social science (AHSS) disciplines and health professions.

Learning Objectives

  1. To deepen understanding of what humanism means – and what is to accomplish – in contemporary healthcare and health professions education
  1. To explore the overlaps and divergences of humanism as it applies to health professions education and practice
  1. To broaden understandings of critique and criticism towards mainstream conceptions of humanism
  1. To offer perspectives on the use of the health humanities as a tool and practice to interrogate current health professions education
  2. To continue to build an inclusive and pluralistic national and international movement that works towards education and practice centrally informed by health humanities

Types of Proposals

Recognizing the emerging role of AHSS approaches and interdisciplinary scholarship, Creating Space 10 offers participants myriad options to present and display their scholarship and educational contributions, experiences and thoughts.

Abstracts may be presented in the following forms:

Research presentation: 20 minutes (15 minutes plus 5 minutes for questions)

Novel humanities educational experiences:  20 minutes (15 minutes plus 5 minutes for questions)

Panel presentation: 45 minutes (30 minutes plus 15 minutes for questions)

Workshop: 90 minutes (maximum of 25% didactic teaching)

Pecha Kucha: 20 slides with 20 seconds each slide

Performance: 30 minutes

Poster/display presentations

Proposal Guidelines

Please use the (link to abstract submission form) to submit your abstract. Abstracts are to be no longer than 300 words (not including works cited).

Deadline for submission

Proposals are due no later than 23h59 (PST) January 15th, 2020.

To Submit a Proposal

All proposals must be submitted to the following address:

Acceptance of proposals will be confirmed by e-mail in mid-February 2020.

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