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Our foundations 

What does the creation of the new centre of knowledge require? In our case, several foundations were crucial.

Aisle with pillars, in an old library. Photo

The professor. The idea. The course.

Lund is not alone in its awareness of the value in enabling medicine and humanities to meet. Around the world, medical humanities, health humanities and narrative medicine have been established as essential fields in both education and research, and there have been earlier initiatives in Lund as well.

However, it is hard to overestimate the importance of what happened in 2008 when Anders Palm, post retirement professor in comparative literature, joined in the work. He saw the potential of introducing the humanities – with a particular focus on the arts – into the medical degree programme through an elective course which provided the students with the opportunity to reflect on their encounter with patients and the patient’s perspective, narrative and understanding, the professional role of the physician and the knowledge perspective of medicine. With the help of the programme management, he was able to conduct far-sighted and systematic work for the subject, with the course being offered on the same conditions within the programme as other elective courses in medicine.

The course has continued to be offered since then and has also gradually been complemented with more educational elements in the programme and the opportunity for students to write a degree project in the subject.

The honorary doctor. The broadmindedness. The donation.

One person who followed Anders Palm’s work on getting medical humanities on the course map is the honorary doctor and philanthropist Birgit Rausing, PhD. In 2017, she ensured that medical humanities received considerable start-up capital to enable the continuation of the much-appreciated course activity on the medical degree programme.

In autumn 2020, the news broke: the Birgit Rausing Foundation was donating SEK 76 million to medical humanities at Lund University’s Faculty of Medicine. The endowment became the start-up capital for a new knowledge centre tasked with developing and profiling medical humanities in education, research and external engagement, within and beyond Lund University.

In an interview, Birgit Rausing described her thoughts:
”Inspired by the activities initiated and developed by professor of comparative literature Anders Palm, I have long held a desire to promote the significance of the humanities in healthcare. Now, more than in the past, many people have realised how important it is to understand the connection between the humanities and medical science and practice, so as to highlight their societal benefit. By setting up a foundation with the aim of supporting this knowledge centre, I wish to help to illustrate the role humanities have to play to enable healthcare to see the whole person in its encounter with and treatment of patients.”

Lund University. The willingness. The organisation.

We have a basic concept, a broadminded and generous donation – but also a committed university that wants to develop these initial values. A university that sees opportunities for added value through the encounter of different disciplinary fields.

The Birgit Rausing Centre for Medical Humanities is organisationally located within the Faculty of Medicine, which has given the centre access to further resources over the long term. The composition of both the centre’s board and its management reflects the centre’s disciplinary breadth, as does our strategy for talent provision.