"Unjudge someone" The Human Library comes to UoG Undergraduate Medical School

General Practice and Primary Care's Dr Lynsay Crawford reports back on an interesting and important initiative – aimed at challenging stigma and stereotypes – that UofG medical students are now benefiting from. 

Photo of person selecting book from library shelves

On 20 and 27 April 2022, University of Glasgow became the first medical school in the UK, and one of only two globally, to host "reading" events with The Human Library.

The Human Library runs reading events with people as human "books" and during these events "readers" experience a rare opportunity to explore, engage in curious, courageous questioning, daring discovery of difference, and conversation with cultures other than your own, without risk of offence being taken or your language/knowledge having to be perfect. This is a safe space to learn how to "unjudge" people and ask questions.

To study the phenomenon of disease without books is to sail an uncharted sea, while to study books without patients is not to go to sea at all. (Sir William Osler)

The first year medical students were invited to these online events where they had the unique opportunity to talk with, listen to, and connect with the human books. The book titles at the events covered the following themes: transgender, neurodiversity, migrant, intersex, schizophrenia, LGBTQIA, people from different faiths, bipolar, a wheelchair user, and a Holocaust survivor.

Feedback from students reinforced the power and helpfulness of this experience, and included the following:

"Just thank you so much for this experience! I think this will stay with me for a long, long time, quite possibly forever."

"It is the most open, honest space I have existed in for a very long time, perhaps ever, and I am so grateful for this experience."

We hope to run the programme every year, embedded within the Vocational Studies curriculum, so all Glasgow graduates will learn how to "unjudge". This will benefit not only our students but also the patients and colleagues they will encounter in their future careers.

Medical students need to have a wide knowledge base that can be learnt from traditional books, but to be truly effective and compassionate doctors they need to develop more nuanced skills – communication, empathy, listening, reflection – and what better way to achieve that, than through interactions, and connections, with people and their lived experience – the human books.

Dr Lynsay Crawford 
Senior Clinical University Lecturer/GP

Read more about this story – "Future doctors to become readers"

Find out more about The Human Library


First published: 20 May 2022