Knowledge Resources & Publications

Webinar: Health Humanities and Unsettling Colonial Medicine

March 2018


The humanities (characterized broadly as disciplines focused on creative, philosophical, qualitative, subjective, artistic, theoretical, and critical modes of thought and engagements – as opposed quantitative, objective, positivist or scientific engagements) are increasingly evidenced within medical and health fields to help ensure a morally sensitive, narratively sound, and deeply professional clinical practice (Shapiro 2009). In this lecture, we take to explore the promise offered by “medical humanities” and consider it in relation to cultural competency, cultural humanity, and calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) around medical and healthcare professionals developing skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism. We also explore the professional and clinical experiences (and stories) of a practicing Indigenous physicians who has employed arts-based methods in her own research, including creative practices link to Indigenous well being.

Webinar objectives

  • Understand historic and contemporary ways that Indigenous peoples are constructed as ‘othered’ subjects especially in medicine and by settler-colonial medical structures.
  • Have new lenses through which to understand health-based interactions with Indigenous peoples.
  • Understand perspectives of Indigenous health care professionals, including doctors, about the need to decolonize medicine.
  • Understand means of undertaking self-reflection (and other humanities informed and arts-based methods) to further and deepen personal thoughts about racism and Indigenous peoples.
  • Have strengthened CanMEDS competencies in the areas of professionalism, advocacy, and physician well-being.
  • Be able to envision some tangible projects they might enact within medical and health care education environments.


Dr. Sarah de Leeuw, Associate Professor, Northern Medical Program, University of Northern British Columbia & Research Associate, National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.

Dr. Terri Aldred, Tl’Azt’En First Nation, Primary Care Physician with Carrier Sekani Family Services, Medical Director for Foundry Prince George, Site Director for the Indigenous Family Medicine Program, and Indigenous Lead for the Rural Co-Ordination Centre of BC.

Recommended readings

de Leeuw, S. (2017). Writing as righting: Truth and reconciliation, poetics, and new geo‐graphing in colonial Canada. The Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien, 61(3), 306-318.

Shapiro, J., & Rucker, L. (2003). Can poetry make better doctors? Teaching the humanities and arts to medical students and residents at the University of California, Irvine, College of Medicine. Academic Medicine, 78(10), 953-957.

Shapiro, J., Coulehan, J., Wear, D., & Montello, M. (2009). Medical humanities and their discontents: definitions, critiques, and implications.. Academic Medicine, 84(2), 192-198.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to action. Winnipeg, MB: Author.

Webinar resources