1st Edition

Helping a Field See Itself Envisioning a Philosophy of Medical Education

Edited By Mario Veen, Anna T. Cianciolo Copyright 2024

    The perceived value of philosophy to medical education is increasing. But beyond the occasional application of philosophical concepts, what does it mean to be philosophical about medical education and to do philosophy—to create new concepts and ways of thinking about what medical education is? The complex and dynamic nature of academic medicine requires medical educators to reflect on their practices, to question assumptions, and to embrace the ambiguity of a world that cannot be captured by any one model or theory.

    This volume explores philosophy as a practice in medical education. We use persistent problems that vex medical educators as a starting point to do philosophy, asking fundamental questions to probe them: How are teaching and learning related? How do we educate the value of personal experience relative to scientific evidence? We also challenge the assumptions underlying these problems with alternatives: What if teaching does not cause learning? What if we cannot divide our inner and outer world? We then explore ways forward: If we cannot cause learning, how do we reconceptualize the educational process? How do we help physician trainees critically reflect on medical epistemology throughout their professional development?

    Each chapter explores one theme in medical education (e.g., education, science, inequality, technology, mortality) from a philosophical perspective, opening it up to fundamental re-examination and inviting readers to continue exploration beyond the printed words. This book is a step towards enabling medical educators to practice philosophy themselves at appropriate moments in their work. In this way, it aims to establish medical education as a mature field with its own philosophy. The chapters in this book were originally published in the journal Teaching and Learning in Medicine.


    Megan E. L. Brown

    1. Problems No One Looked For: Philosophical Expeditions into Medical Education

    Mario Veen and Anna T. Cianciolo

    2. Beyond the Medical Model: Thinking Differently about Medical Education and Medical Education Research

    Gert J. J. Biesta and Marije van Braak

    3. Teaching Medical Epistemology within an Evidence-Based Medicine Curriculum

    Mark R. Tonelli and Robyn Bluhm

    4. Language, Philosophy, and Medical Education

    John R. Skelton

    5. Contending with Our Racial Past in Medical Education: A Foucauldian Perspective

    Zareen Zaidi, Ian M. Partman, Cynthia R.Whitehead, Ayelet Kuper and Tasha R. Wyatt

    6. Phenomenological Research in Health Professions Education: Tunneling from Both Ends

    Chris Rietmeijer and Mario Veen

    7. Black, White and Gray: Student Perspectives on Medical Humanities and Medical Education

    Madeleine Noelle Olding, Freya Rhodes, John Humm, Phoebe Ross and Catherine McGarry

    8. Because We Care: A Philosophical Investigation into the Spirit of Medical Education

    Camillo Coccia and Mario Veen

    9. A Matter of Trust: Online Proctored Exams and the Integration of Technologies of Assessment in Medical Education

    Tim Fawns and Sven P. C. Schaepkens

    10. Being-Opposite-Illness: Phenomenological Ontology in Medical Education and Clinical Practice

    John Humm

    11. The Lifecycle of a Clinical Cadaver: A Practice-Based Ethnography

    Anna MacLeod, Victoria Luong, Paula Cameron, George Kovacs, Molly Fredeen, Lucy Patrick, Olga Kits and Jonathan Tummons

    12. Technical Difficulties: Teaching Critical Philosophical Orientations toward Technology

    Benjamin Chin-Yee, Laura Nimmon and Mario Veen

    13. Mind the Gap: A Philosophical Analysis of Reflection’s Many Benefits

    Sven P. C. Schaepkens and Thijs Lijster

    14. Conclusions: Envisioning a Philosophy of Medical Education

    Anna T. Cianciolo and Mario Veen


    Mario Veen is Assistant Professor Educational Research at the Department of General Practice of Erasmus MC, interested in correspondences between philosophy and medical education. He has an interdisciplinary background in philosophy, social science and the humanities. He hosts the podcasts Let Me Ask You Something and Life From Plato’s Cave.

    Anna T. Cianciolo is Associate Professor of Medical Education at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Editor-in-Chief of Teaching and Learning in Medicine, and a lover of questions. Her professional passion is to conduct and cultivate scholarship that empowers others to raise questions and explore answers together.