What is the IMH?

The Institute of Medicine and Humanities (IMH) is a joint program of The University of Montana and St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center.  Since its founding in 1987, the Institute has endeavored to foster the human dimensions of health care by working at the interface of the  humanities and medicine.  The IMH since inception has employed both the traditional humanities and the fine arts to illuminate and understand major issues that confront healthcare in contemporary society.

Education is the backbone of the IMH.  This includes education of the public about important health care issues, education of undergraduates interested in the health care profession and education of graduate level nursing, pharmacy and medical students in ethics, collaborative care and team building, and conflict resolution.

The IMH is a jointly sponsored institution designed to bridge and connect the resources and opportunities of the two sponsoring institutions – the University of Montana and St. Patrick Hospital. At it’s inception, the IMH was designed to improve the practice environment of the physicians and medical staff at the hospital, by utilizing the expertise in the humanities at the university community. In the intervening 20+ years since it’s beginning, the work of the IMH has reflected the particular interests of the directors. This flexibility allowed for development of reading groups, a radio show, film series, a visiting scholar program, a yearly symposium on ethics topics, and a scholarship program, among others. The IMH maintains the Ridge Collection of books and references on topics related to medicine, humanities, ethics, global health, doctor’s stories, and medical leadership, housed at the Center for Health Information at St. Patrick Hospital and available through interlibrary loan.

In 2007, the IMH expanded the focus to include medical education, both continuing medical education and also medical student education. The WWAMI program of the University of Washington School of Medicine supports the teaching of third year medical students in six clinical clerkships in Missoula – Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, Surgery, Psychiatry, OB/Gyn – and this program is overseen by the IMH director and program coordinator. The Institute supports development of innovative educational offerings in our community including development of a survey course with job-shadowing component for undergraduate students at UM, and development of an interprofessional education seminar for students during their UM pharmacy, MSU nursing, and UW medical school clinical rotations. The development of interprofessional education programs is designed to promote and teach a team based, collaborative style of clinical practice which is designed to improve communication between disciplines and thereby improve patient care. The IMH has been working on team based communication in the hospital environment, and has produced education sessions on nurse/physician communication issues, and generational conflicts in the workplace for hospital staff.

For the past two years, the IMH has sponsored a class at UM on global health which covers topics from the consequences of malnutrition to the development of malaria resistance and the social determinants of health. Global health is a topic of tremendous importance – and we are grateful to be able to showcase local talent in this area at the IMH Global Health Lecture Series. Prior speakers have included Dr. Heinz Feldmann of the Rocky Mountain Lab Division of Virology in Hamilton, MT, Dr. Kimber McKay of the Anthropology Department at UM, and Dr. Tom Bulger Adjunct Faculty at UM and Emergency Room physician at St. Patrick Hospital.

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