Humanism in global oncology curricula: an emerging priority

  • M. Giuliani Princess Margret Cancer Centre, University of Toronto
  • M.A. Martimianakis University of Toronto
  • M. Broadhurst Princess Margret Cancer Centre
  • J. Papadakos Princess Margret Cancer Centre
  • R. Fazelad Princess Margret Cancer Centre
  • E. Driessen Maastricht University
  • J. Frambach Maastricht University
Keywords: Global oncology curricula, humanism, canmeds, professionalism, oncology education


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.

Author Biographies

M. Giuliani, Princess Margret Cancer Centre, University of Toronto
Radiation Medicine Program, Department of Radiation Oncology
M.A. Martimianakis, University of Toronto
Department of Paediatrics
M. Broadhurst, Princess Margret Cancer Centre
Cancer Education
J. Papadakos, Princess Margret Cancer Centre
Cancer Education
R. Fazelad, Princess Margret Cancer Centre
Information Sciences
E. Driessen, Maastricht University

Department of Educational Development and Research, Faculty of Health Medicine and Life Sciences

J. Frambach, Maastricht University
School of Health Professions Education
How to Cite
Giuliani, M., Martimianakis, M., Broadhurst, M., Papadakos, J., Fazelad, R., Driessen, E., & Frambach, J. (2020). Humanism in global oncology curricula: an emerging priority. Current Oncology, 27(1).
Oncology Education