Welcome to the Health, Arts, & Humanities Program

The Health, Arts, and Humanities Program advances a deeper understanding of health, illness, human suffering and disability by creating a community of engaged educators , learners, researchers and practitioners in the clinical sciences, the arts and the humanities at the University of Toronto and beyond.

Sharing creative and critical lenses renders us all more accountable in shaping more humanistic healthcare and educational practices. The voice of patients, clients , consumers and their families is central to our discourse.

Our offerings are designed to foster reflexivity, create renewal based on finding pleasure and purpose in our daily work and to deepen personal resilience.

Benefits to Clinicians
A growing international literature has demonstrated that physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals who seek out exposure to the humanities and arts-based learning improve their capacity to think critically and bring enhanced sensitivity, curiosity and creativity to their work with patients.  They learn to challenge personal assumptions and biases, to stretch their world view and to become more reflective practitioners.
Benefits to Humanities Scholars
Humanities scholars can be enriched by an ongoing dialogue with colleagues from clinical disciplines and by having direct access to clinical/teaching settings which link to their areas of study or critical theory. They will be invited to help shape the discourse around perceptions of health and illness in our learning community and society at large. Although the central focus of the Program is on increasing the role of humanities in the provision of good patient care, another goal will be to widen its focus significantly by understanding medicine in the context of the humanities.
Benefits To Patients
Patients and their families benefit from creative approaches that foster holistic and humanistic care. Furthermore patient stories are fully honoured as a source of understanding and empowerment for them and a deep source of knowledge and empathy for students, educators and practitioners.
Learning From Each Other
Workshops, seminars, conferences, collaborative research and other activities will bring clinicians and humanities scholars together to consider the social, literary and historical dimensions of medicine. The result will be a university-wide community of socially engaged scholars – “medicine watchers” and “medical practitioners” – sharing contemporary and historical views on human experience, suffering and dignity.

The Health Humanities (also called the Medical Humanities) can be defined as a sustained interdisciplinary/inter-professional enquiry into aspects of medical practice, education and research expressly concerned with the HUMAN SIDE of medicine and healthcare.

At the University of Toronto, for the last 10 years, the Health, Arts and Humanities program has encouraged ongoing dialogue, exchange, research and collaboration among several fields of study and practice:

  • biomedicine (with representation from ALL healthcare disciplines)
  • philosophy, theology and bio-ethics
  • history of medicine and healthcare
  • the arts (including music, theatre, dance, cinema, visual arts and graphic medicine)
  • literary studies (including poetry, reflective and creative writing, close reading of literary texts, critical theory)
  • anthropology
  • sociology

All of our courses, lectures and workshops have been designed to help learners and practitioners to deepen their reflective capacity, narrative competence, critical thinking, visual literacy and personal/professional renewal through engagement with the arts.

We are an EDU-D educational Program with extensive affiliations across the university campus and within the arts and scholarly communities. We founded the first national Creating Space Conference in medical humanities and the arts in health professional education in Canada in 2010 and facilitated the creation of the Canadian Association For Health Humanities (www.cahh.ca) in 2019.

We help curate humanities teaching at the medical school, for residents, fellows and postgraduate learners and practitioners working in the community.

Our faculty include clinicians from all health disciplines, visual and performing artists and humanities scholars. We are fortunate to have four Artists-In-Residence and three Specialists in Arts-Based Education.


We encourage practitioners, educators and learners to reflect upon:

WHO they are as unique individuals with strengths and personal values — and also blind spots, privileges, biases and human vulnerabilities. How are they taking care of themselves, achieving life balance and fostering creativity, resilience and renewal? What brings them a sense of pleasure and purpose?

WHAT they are in their role as health professionals in contemporary society. This includes examining curricula (intentional and hidden) and notions of professionalism, accountability and ethical behaviour.

WHERE they are, in terms of community context, access and healthcare needs, population health, ecological environment, care of marginalized groups, social justice. How are they advocating for their patients/clients and shaping/improving local/national healthcare policy?