communication — culture — ethics — technology
The Danish Institute of Humanities and Medicine (DIHM), founded in November 2013, is a cross-faculty initiative spanning the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Medicine at Aalborg University, Denmark.
The two main drivers of scholarly and educational activities at the Institute are:
- translationality (incorporating a dynamic research-practice interface) and
- transdisciplinarity (involving sustained collaboration among contributory disciplines).
An interest in ‘the human condition’ brings humanities and healthcare sciences together – both in terms of intervention (to minimise suffering associated with illness) and prevention of disease as well as promotion of health (cf. The World Health Organisation (WHO)’s definition of ‘total health’ as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’).
A key objective of DIHM is to channel humanities-based research findings into the Medical/Health curricula both at undergraduate and postgraduate levels as well as informing the practising healthcare professionals about the increasingly complex communicative environment they inhabit which is mediated by cultural, ethical and technological parameters.
In contemporary societies there is an ever-widening communication gap between healthcare professionals and their patients/clients as many hospital authorities come to recognise that poor communication and inadequate understanding may potentially compromise the delivery of adequate patient care, resulting in higher litigation costs in comparison to costs associated with other forms of misdiagnosis or malpractice. Against this background, effective communication management is seen as a means of supporting changes in medical and healthcare education, as well as suggesting a powerful method for measuring safety and excellence in the delivery of care and the appraisal of professional expertise.
DIHM aims to develop evidence-based alternative paradigms to the existing skillsbased communication training by drawing upon cutting-edge discourse-based research in professional communication studies and by utilising the problem-based learning paradigm associated with Aalborg University. It means expanding the circumference of communicative practices beyond the clinic/hospital setting involving patients and their carers to include interprofessional networks and institutional protocols mediated through talk, text and other semiotic modes. Today’s and tomorrow’s healthcare professionals need to be both competent and reflective practitioners in a wider sense.
Some of the challenges for today’s and tomorrow’s healthcare professionals include:
- risk/uncertainty communication;
- multiprofessional communication and shared decisionmaking;
- delivery of diagnosis and prognosis;
- offer of advice and reassurance;
- addressing ethical and moral dilemmas;
- coping with difficult/denial patients;
- mediating linguistic and cultural diversity;
- underscoring compliance etc.
Themes such as the ones listed above necessitate transdisciplinary and multi-method research approaches.
The transdisciplinarity is reflected in the following strands which will constitute the core activities of the Institute:
- Medical/Health Humanities and Communication
- Medical/Health Humanities and Culture
- Medical/Health Humanities and Ethics
- Medical/Health Humanities and Technology
- Medical/Health Humanities and Learning
- Medical/Health Humanities and Art/Music
The above list will be complemented and consolidated further as the Institute evolves in future years. The strands will constitute the different pathways of Masters and Doctoral programmes in due course.
DIHM will actively seek internal and external funding to pursue a robust research agenda, while encouraging long-term collaborative transdisciplinary research which will feed into the medical/health curriculum. The Institute is also committed to building critical capacity via intensive courses as well as training programmes and through recruitment of Masters, Doctoral and Post-Doctoral researchers with medical/healthcare backgrounds.