The Return to Literature—Making Doctors Matter in the New Era of Medicine
The rapid explosion of medical knowledge of the 19th and 20th centuries required a transformation in medical education, which, to that point, had been marked by low educational standards. To combat the lack of regulation, the 1910 Flexner Report recommended sweeping reforms. By 1930, students hoping to enroll in a medical school would need to complete courses in chemistry, physics, and biology, leaving little room for the liberal arts.
Medicine is once again changing. The impact of artificial intelligence is being felt across all medical fields, and the nature of physicians’ jobs in the new landscape of intelligent machines will inevitably also have to change. What will the role of new physicians be? And how should medical education be amended to meet those needs?
In 2017, the Georgetown University School of Medicine graduated the first group of students from its Literature and Medicine Track—the first U.S. medical school track dedicated to the study of literature. This Invited Commentary explores the work done in, and the scholarship resulting from, this novel educational program and suggests ways in which literature could be used to prepare future doctors for the evolving demands of the medical field.