Humanism in global oncology curricula: an emerging priority

M. Giuliani*, M.A. Martimianakis, M. Broadhurst, J. Papadakos, R. Fazelad, E. Driessen, J. Frambach

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction Training in humanism provides skills important for improving the quality of care received by patients, achieving shared decision-making with patients, and navigating systems-level challenges. However, because of the dominance of the biomedical model, there is potentially a lack of attention to humanistic competencies in global oncology curricula. In the present study, we aimed to explore the incorporation of humanistic competencies into global oncology curricula.Methods This analysis considered 17 global oncology curricula. A curricular item was coded as either humanistic (as defined by the IECARES framework) or non-humanistic. If identified as humanistic, the item was coded using an aspect of humanism, such as Altruism, from the IECARES framework. All items, humanistic and not, were coded under the canMEDS framework using 1 of the 7 canMEDS competency domains: Medical Expert, Communicator, Collaborator, Leader, Scholar, Professional, or Health Advocate.Results Of 7792 identified curricular items in 17 curricula, 780 (10%) aligned with the IECARES humanism framework. The proportion of humanistic items in individual curricula ranged from 2% to 26%, and the proportion increased from 3% in the oldest curricula to 11% in the most recent curricula. Of the humanistic items, 35% were coded under Respect, 31% under Compassion, 24% under Empathy, 5% under Integrity, 2% under Excellence, 1% under Altruism, and 1% under Service. Within the canMEDS domains, the humanistic items aligned mostly with Professional (35%), Medical Expert (31%), or Communicator (25%).Conclusions The proportion of humanistic competencies has been increasing in global oncology curricula over time, but the overall proportion remains low and represents a largely Western perspective on what constitutes humanism in health care. The representation of humanism focuses primarily on the IECARES attributes of Respect, Compassion, and Empathy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-51
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Oncology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • canmeds
  • care
  • context
  • cultures
  • education
  • framework
  • global oncology curricula
  • humanism
  • medical professionalism
  • oncology education
  • professionalism
  • reform
  • Global oncology curricula
  • CARE
  • canMEDS

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