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Yonsei University takes lead in social medicine
  • By Lee Hye-seon
  • Published 2017.09.04 17:22
  • Updated 2017.09.04 17:22
  • comments 0

New medical technologies, including genomic editing called CRISPR, reproduction, and artificial intelligent (AI) Watson, have advanced the era to cure diseases completely with all limits to treating diseases seeming to have disappeared.

As medical technology develops, however, doctors have gotten preoccupied with “how to judge and act.”

Gradually some doctors have begun to stress the importance of looking at “humans with diseases” with a consolidated viewpoint. And that’s how medical humanities and social medicine has come into being. Its advocates recognized the need for an approach by integrating biology, sociology, and psychology.

Korea began its discussion with the separation of prescribing and dispensing drugs in 2000. Since then, a growing number of medical colleges have made the medical humanities and social medicine as a required course.

Professor Yang Eun-bae

Yonsei University also opened the cooperative course of medical humanities and social medicine in 2007. Unlike other universities, Yonsei opened the course at the general graduate school, not the medical school.

It has been 10 years since the university opened the joint course. Professor Yang Eun-bae양은배, who has headed the course in the past five years, said if the previous decade had been a period to pioneer the course, the next 10 years would be the one to grow medical humanities and social medicine.

“This is the time to create a basis to help medical humanities, and social medicine enters into the growth level. If the course could grow over the next decade or so, we won’t need to worry about it,” Yang said.

More people should have interests in medical humanities and social medicine, Yang added. He said the joint course has two meanings; one is the incorporation of six departments -- medical education, doctoral history, pedagogy, history, philosophy, and sociology – operate a single course, implanting an integrated and converging way of thinking. The other is cultivating talents who think about, prepare for and lead a new paradigm.

The domestic network of medical humanities and social medicine remains weak, however. Yang said there aren’t enough people and channels to release papers, requiring more cooperation in the area over the next decade.

“There may be many ways, but personally, I hope the concerned universities make a consortium and work out a joint program to train more talents. More participants can provide the basis to grow the course and broaden its depth,” Yang said.

Yang said people are most important to make the course move closer to the public.

“Asked why they would become doctors, many medical residents answered ‘to become a Schweitzer’ in the past. Now there is only the vestige of the hospital in Africa where Schweitzer served. They failed to maintain it. I think Schweitzer wasn’t their role model for they failed to raise people,” Yang said.

Although the medical humanities and social medicine has permeated in the training course of the medical school, there aren’t enough teachers. For the sustainable development of doctors and medicine, doctors have to get human eyes and need to understand humans and other fields. Medical humanities and social medicine is the course to make such thinking possible, and train people with such thoughts.

Many people from different areas can take the joint course. Individuals who have a specialty in one area are especially welcome. Many artists, including a painter with a master’s degree in philosophy and a doctoral degree in history, and a dancer, have taken the course at Yonsei University because they wanted to integrate the medical field and society, have a comprehensive way of thinking, and exert their influence on society.

“I will select figure skater Kim Yuna if she applies for the medical humanities and social medicine course. Doctors can have trouble in integration if they’re stuck in their society. At stake is the frame of thinking,” Professor Yang said. “To change it, they have to get the education from the beginning. It has been 10 years. There aren’t many graduates. If they can raise their voices in the field, however, change will occur based on a new paradigm. We will make the basis for such growth in the coming 10 years.”


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