Literature and Arts in Medical Education

Johanna Shapiro, PhD

A student once asked the eminent physician Thomas Sydenham, MD, which texts the student should study to prepare himself for the practice of medicine. Sydenham replied without hesitation or elaboration, “Read Don Quixote. It is a very good book.” Much has changed in the nature of medical education since the 17th century when these words were recorded. But, if today’s medical students or family practice residents should choose to dip into Cervantes’ masterpiece, I for one would not discourage them. Where else could they learn as much about the dreams that give life meaning and soften the blows of suffering and death?

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