We Make the Path While Walking:
Dialogue for Critical Consciousness and Social Justice
Fundamentally, the practice of medicine is a moral activity, and therefore, the goal of medical education is an understanding and embodiment of—a deep and abiding connection with—the societal and moral responsibilities of the physician. Teaching and learning topics of social relevance in medicine requires that we stand traditional educational models on their head. Learning is active and collaborative and demands engagement of the whole person, reflection, and risk-taking—both by teachers and learners. Education involves the fostering of critical consciousness of the self, others, and the world and is stimulated by dialogue, stories, readings, writings, and creative art.
Health humanities play a critically important role in this development. By fostering a deep exploration of the Self and Other, by “making strange” taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs, by introducing situated knowledges and perspectives from the “borderlands,” and by encouraging fearlessness and imagination, humanities aspire towards a type of transformative learning that links the knowledge and skills of the biomedical and clinical sciences with a moral orientation and action that aims to address human needs and answer the call of justice.
Arno K. Kumagai, M.D. is Professor of Medicine and Vice Chair for Education, Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He also holds the F.M. Hill Chair in Humanism Education at Women’s College Hospital. Arno’s clinical interests are in working with individuals with type 1 diabetes.
Arno received his B.A. in Comparative Literature from U.C. Berkeley and his M.D. from UCLA School of Medicine. He completed a residency in Internal Medicine and an Endocrine fellowship and postdoc at UCLA. He was on faculty at the University of Michigan Medicine from 1996 to 2016, after which he moved to the University of Toronto in April 2016.
After years of basic science research, in 2003 Arno turned his attention to medical education. He subsequently developed a novel narrative-based program for medical students at Michigan that gained international attention. Arno’s research interests include use of narratives and art in medical education, transformative learning, faculty development, critical pedagogy, and teaching in areas of equity and social justice. He is also Cross-Appointed Researcher at the Wilson Centre and at the Centre for Ambulatory Care Education and serves on the Editorial Board of Academic Medicine.
Arno is the recipient of a number of teaching awards in humanism and medical education and is the proud co-recipient, along with Delese Wear, Joe Zarconi, Julie Aultman, and Michelle Chyatte of the 2017 American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation’s Professionalism Article Prize for “Remebering Freddie Grey: Medical Education for Social Justice.”