“Humanising Medicine”, crucial goal of the new International Association – “The Doctor as a Humanist”.

Written by Joan Calafat, and appeared in “Salut i Forca” on 23/10/2017. Translated from Spanish


The new association, presided by Jonathan McFarland, emerged from the symposium celebrated in Palma de Mallorca under the auspices of the Scientific Foundation of the Council of Doctors of the Balearic Islands(COMIB).

Experts in Medicine and the Humanities from all over the world, along with students from prestigious universities gathered on the 13th and 14th October in Palma de Mallorca for the first “The Doctor as a Humanist” symposium. The new association takes the same name and will be presided by Jonathan McFarland, an English teacher born in Liverpool but resident in Mallorca for the last two decades.

The symposium, which aimed at responding to the question of whether the Humanities could transform 21st century Medicine, was organised by the Scientific Foundation (COMIB). Speakers attending the symposium came from universities from the UK, Russia, Brazil, India, USA, Canada and Spain, as well as medical students from the different participating universities.

The creation of the International association, The Doctor as a Humanist, was the key moment of the two days, which as Jonathan McFarland notes, “started with a pilot project and took full life with the constitution of the association”. The objective of the Doctor as a Humanist is none other than, in the words of its president, “to make medical practice more humane and empathetic that is the key to the doctor-patient relationship, given that both are totally inseparable.”

McFarland is fully aware that medicine had progressed extraordinarily in the last decades thanks to the great drive forward through technology and scientific research, but he still considers that there may be “a certain deterioration in the human relationships at the heart of medical practice. I do not wish to be misinterpreted; the new procedures that cure the diseases that before were incurable are always welcome, but we should never forget that, in the end, we are talking about people, and as patients they have the right to a relationship that considers their emotional, psychological and human needs.”

The humanities have not always been appropriately placed within medicine, and McFarland believes that it is a priority “to correct this deficiency because without doubt present-day medicine lacks humanity, and this situation should be changed. Thus, the project arising from recently held symposium “The Doctor as a Humanist”, has the utmost importance”.

In fact, in the opinion of the president of this international association, “it is impossible to be a good doctor if you forget about the human side, and if he does neglects it, then no matter how much experience or knowledge he has he can never deliver complete and effective support to the patient. To put it in another way, we need to put the heart and soul back into medicine. “

On the development of the symposium, Jonathan McFarland points out that the participants “coincided in highlighting the high level of interest, depth and quality of the presentations, but, that perhaps one of the most positive aspects of the forum was the possibility of professionals, experts and students from around the world to interact amongst themselves.” The next symposium will take place in October 2018, and McFarland is convinced that “it will serve to consolidate the path that we have already initiated”.

Despite most of McFarland’s work experience having been in education, this Liverpudlian who is passionate about his adopted land is strongly linked to medicine. Not in vain, as he tells was his grandmother “one of the first woman doctors in the UK in the 1920`s, and vocation for this venerable profession runs through many other members of my family. I feel identified with the sentence of Chekhov who considered medicine to be his wife, and literature his lover. It would not be prudent to say that medicine was my lover because my wife would not see the funny side but, without doubt, it feels as though medicine is my sister; perhaps even my twin sister”.

Written by Joan Calafat, and appeared in “Salut i Forca” on 23/10/2017, and translated from Spanish

Author: jonmcf

Jonathan McFarland lives in the beautiful town of Soller on the othe side of the mountains of Mallorca with his family and other animals, and in his spare time he loves walking in the mountains, reading, cooking paella and looking after his garden. He is also President of MHAM, Medical Humanities Association of Mallorca. For the last decade He has been dedicated to teaching Medical English to physicians, health professionals and all those working in health. Currently he works in two hospitals in Mallorca, Son Espases University Hospital and Son Llatzer Hospital, as well as teaching in Primary Care and in Public Health. Although not Medically trained, having a BA Hons Degree in English and History, he has always been interested in medicine. Maybe this is due to being around Doctors day in day out or maybe this is because he comes from a strong medical family in Liverpool. Whatever the case he believes that what he is doing is essential for the Spanish Doctors and nurses. Medical English is an enormous field and encompasses many areas: the Doctor - Patient relationship, wherein the doctor often needs to speak and explain to non Spanish speakers, Research - English is the language of Biomedical investigation, and Training - Undergraduate, Postgraduate (Resident Training) and CME (Continuous Medical Education). Jonathan is interested in all of these, but at present is working on two important projects: Resident Training, which is the key to the future, and Clinical Sessions in English, his intitiative and which he has promoted and is currently taking charge of in both Hospitals and in around 24 different departments, ranging from Oncology to Immunology and Traumatology to Microbiology.

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