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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 535

Three Years of Medical Humanities at a New Nepalese Medical School

KIST Medical College, Imadol VDC, Lalitpur, Nepal

Date of Submission18-Aug-2010
Date of Acceptance20-Mar-2011
Date of Web Publication29-Apr-2011

Correspondence Address:
R Shankar
P.O. Box 14142, Kathmandu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 21710422

How to cite this article:
Shankar R, Piryani R M. Three Years of Medical Humanities at a New Nepalese Medical School. Educ Health 2011;24:535

How to cite this URL:
Shankar R, Piryani R M. Three Years of Medical Humanities at a New Nepalese Medical School. Educ Health [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 Jan 25];24:535. Available from:

Dear Editor,

Medical Humanities (MH) is ‘an interdisciplinary, and increasingly international endeavor that draws on the creative and intellectual strengths of diverse disciplines, including literature, art, creative writing, drama, film, music, philosophy, ethical decision-making, anthropology and history in pursuit of medical educational goals’1. MH programs are uncommon in South Asia, a region with a large proportion of the world’s population and medical schools. 

KIST Medical College is a new medical school in the Lalitpur district of the Kathmandu Valley. The hospital opened in January 2008, with the first class of students for the undergraduate medical (MBBS) course admitted in November 2008. We conducted a module for faculty members and medical, dental officers every Sunday (a working day in Nepal) for two hours over a three month period. The 30 participants were divided into four small groups. Literature excerpts, group work, case scenarios and role plays were used to explore various aspects of the humanities. Table 1 presents the topics covered during the different MH modules. Participants were uncomfortable exploring sexual and reproductive issues through role plays. They also had problems with the literature excerpts used2.

Table 1:  Topics covered during Medical Humanities Modules at KIST Medical College, Nepal

The session for first-year medical students was called Sparshanam (touch in Sanskrit, an ancient South Asian language)3. The 75 students were divided into six small groups of 12 or 13 students each. Each session began with a brief introduction by facilitators followed by a brainstorming session and different activities. Literature excerpts were not used. Six faculty members from various departments joined as co-facilitators, with students also participating as co-facilitators for certain sessions. Paintings were used. Participants brainstormed about a painting answering the questions 'What do you see?' and 'What do you feel?' They created and recited/sung a poem/song about the scene depicted, wrote a short sketch of about 100 words concerning the painting and explored issues depicted using role plays4.

There were 100 students in the second medical school class who were admitted in November 2009. Faced with a problem of a larger class size, we divided the students into two groups of 50 students each and held sessions on alternate Thursdays for each. Another problem was less faculty interest in being facilitators. The available time period was only 75 minutes, so we decided to reduce the number of topics and concentrate on selected areas (Table 1). Each topic was divided into two parts of 75 minutes each.

The groups were further divided into five sub-groups, each named after a notable personality in the field of MH. The present authors were the main facilitators, with two others joining for specific sessions. Students also facilitated certain sessions under our guidance. Most sessions ended with an ‘open space’ (Khula manch) where participants shared their experiences about the module, singing songs or reciting poems related to health. The learning modalities used were similar to previous modules.

The modules were not part of the formal curriculum. We had problems of attendance just before assessment of ‘course subjects’. However, despite problems and challenges, the authors were generally able to successfully conduct the modules. We plan to continue and further develop sessions in the future. 

Dr. P. Ravi Shankar
Dr. Rano M. Piryani

 KIST Medical College
Lalitpur, Nepal


1Kirklin, D. The Centre for Medical Humanities, Royal Free and University College Medical School, London, England. Academic Medicine. 2003; 78(10): 1048-1053.

2Shankar PR. Design the shoe according to the foot. The Clinical Teacher. 2009; 6(2):67-68.

3Shankar PR, Piryani RM, Thapa TP, Karki BMS. Our experiences with ‘Sparshanam’, A medical humanities module for medical students at KIST Medical College, Nepal. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. 2010; 4(4):2158-2162.

4Shankar PR, Piryani RM. Using paintings to explore the medical humanities in a Nepalese medical school. BMJ Medical Humanities. 2009; 35(2):121-122.


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