Art has long been a tool used to enhance one’s understanding of the science of medicine at the UMKC School of Medicine. Stuart Munro, M.D., adjunct professor of medical humanities and bioethics, discussed how a balance of the two makes for a more effective physician.
Munro was the keynote speaker on Thursday, March 24, for the 22nd annual William T. Sirridge, M.D., Medical Humanities Lecture.
Patrick Sirridge, one of Sirridge’s four children, opened the lecture with a brief photo history of his father during his time as a physician and docent at the School of Medicine. William Sirridge and his wife, Marjorie Sirridge, M.D., served as two of the school’s founding docents. Their fondness for the arts and literature led the couple to establish the Sirridge Office of Medical Humanities. The office is now part of the school’s Department of Medical Humanities and Bioethics that was created in 2013.
Munro, a long-time faculty member at the School of Medicine, served as inaugural chair of the department. He explained that in the early years of the school’s history, docents instructed students in not only the clinical skills of medicine, but also taught the basic science classes.
“And I’m sure that Bill and Marjorie managed to sneak in some humanities along the way,” he said.
Blending the various arts that are part of the school’s humanities curriculum with the science of medicine enables physicians to see their patients in a different light and with a fuller understanding, Munro said. He said it also helps them to grow their body of medical knowledge, while achieving greater satisfaction in their careers and personal lives.
Medicine demands a balance of the two, Munro said.
“Science is important, but it’s not enough,” he said. “The humanities are important, but they’re not enough. Science and the humanities, we have to find the middle ground.”
Munro joined the School of Medicine in 1985 as an assistant professor of psychiatry. He served as chair of psychiatry at the School of Medicine for nearly 12 years, and currently is course director for behavioral science and for the humanities course in music and medicine.
“Students are as creative and as eager to find their humanity as ever,” he said. “If we can help them do it, then I don’t feel pessimistic about the future of medicine.”