Western University of Health Sciences


What is Humanism?

Debra Nelson

Graphic Designer, WesternU Publications/Public Affairs and Marketing
Graphic designer for the Humanism in the Health Sciences magazine for the last 14 years, Advisor 2020

A loud buzzword on campus… 44 years here and more so lately.
How will we define it?
How do we measure it?
Let’s have a survey, or a magazine.

What is this word to us, who’ve heard it a bit overmuch?
A Renaissance philosophy? An action… perhaps? A bullet point on the syllabus.
A Strategic Performance Indicator! …of what… and Why?
Does it matter?

Like a quantum particle, when we seek to observe it, it appears to change;
A phenomenon that refuses to be studied…put under a microscope…contained by criteria.

We throw together word spaghetti,
Hoping to trap it under more words; ones we recognize —
Compassion, Respect, Diversity, Inclusion, Dignity.
More and more words that never seem to quite contain the whole matter.
Why not just use those words?

14 years I have wondered… and perhaps it is THIS!
Not a poem, or a health fair, or a fountain…
…or a dozen other words that have their own definitions.
Perhaps, Humanism is the constant pursuit, never institutionalized or finished.

Humanism is asking the question, What is Humanism?
The answers may change when we attempt to observe and measure it,
But if we stop… it may cease to matter.