What is Humanism in Medicine?

Humanism in medicine describes relationships between physicians and their patients that are respectful and compassionate. It is reflected in attitudes and behaviors that are sensitive to the values, autonomy, cultural and ethnic backgrounds of others.

Humanism Honor SocietyThe humanistic doctor demonstrates the following attributes (“I.E., C.A.R.E.S.”):

Integrity: the congruence between expressed values and behavior.

Excellence: clinical expertise.

Compassion: the awareness and acknowledgement of the suffering of another and the desire to relieve it.

Altruism: the capacity to put the needs and interests of another before your own.

Respect: the regard for the autonomy and values of another person.

Empathy: the ability to put oneself in another’s situation, e.g., physician as patient.

Service: the sharing of one’s talent, time and resources with those in need; giving beyond what is required.


So…What does humanism mean to you?

What does humanism mean to you?

What does humanism mean to you?

We asked our 2014 Inductees to share their definition of humanism with us and we were moved by their reflections…here are just a few of their responses. 


It seems simplistic to say that medicine is about caring for people, but it is surprisingly easy to lose track of that central insight into why we are doing what we are doing. Humanism is about recentering ourselves within this potentially alienating health care system and recognizing that we are taking care of human beings in all of their complexity.  

In my eyes humanism is embodied in attention to the mind, body, and spirit. Only when I am caring equally for those aspects with compassion and respect do I feel like I am humanistic, caring for the whole person, and healing as a physician. Throughout my training it is the providers that have maintained respect and compassion in caring for the whole person that I aim to exemplify. Moving forward in residency and in my future practice I am committed to following my mentors’ examples as I continually foster a mentality of humanism in caring for the mind, body, and spirit. 

Humanism in medicine means recognizing my patient as a person, understanding both their injury and their concerns, and treating them as I would treat my own family. It means going beyond the minimal amount of work needed to treat them, and striving to make a more lasting connection to ensure their total care is exceptional. When this happens, the patient receives better care, feels better about their care, and I know that I have done everything I can do to improve their life. 



About Dr Jess

Dr. Jessica Campbell is Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at University of Colorado Denver and Denver Health Hospital. "I love to create engaging learning environments on the wards and promote peak wellness among providers and patients. Together we can transform medical education one story at a time."
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