Is the qualitative approach applicable to medical education and research?

By Maria Cecília de Souza Minayo, Editor-in-chief and Luiza Gualhano, Communication assistant, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil

Medicine is an eminently practical area of knowledge. However, since the reforms based on the Flexnerian model, its exercise has been marked by sociological positivism and increasingly specialized biologicism. This theoretical bias presents an unforgivable gap in relation to the social, since life and death, health, disease and treatment are biological processes entangled and crossed by history and culture, which manifests itself in values, beliefs, representations, relationships, attitudes, behaviors and practices. Of course, the physicians know this because they live it through relationships with their patients in medical offices, hospitals and clinics. Therefore, intuitively they are certain that these concepts govern everybody’s daily life, including theirs. Nevertheless, rationally, they do not accept that they may become a scientific object of study.

However, qualitative approaches are based on philosophical principles that – considering only modern science – have been developed for more than two centuries and have been applied in the human and social sciences through comprehensive socio-anthropological, hermeneutic and phenomenological studies since the end of the 19th century. Thus, there should be no excuse for such perspectives to be unknown to physicians whose profession requires humanism and which practice is genuinely intersubjective.

In this sense, two current phenomena are considered promising: the first is the fact that some leading biomedical journals such as Lancet and others have begun to publish qualitative studies more and more frequently. The second is the creation of new medical schools focused on primary health care, in which the relationship with the population becomes ever closer, requiring relational skills and intersubjective capacity.

On volume 22, number 1 of 2017, Ciência & Saúde Coletiva contributes with the debate of the aforementioned questions and presents results of genuinely qualitative studies produced by physicians or research groups of which they are part of. It is understood that the participation of these professionals in comprehensive studies contributes to reduce the gap between collective health and clinical practice and to improve the physician-patient relationship.

To read the articles, access them

Ciência & Saúde Coletiva, vol.22 no.1, Rio de Janeiro, Jan. 2017 – <>

Link externo

Ciência & Saúde Coletiva – CSC: <>


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

MINAYO, M.C.S. and GUALHANO, L. Is the qualitative approach applicable to medical education and research? [online]. SciELO in Perspective | Press Releases, 2017 [viewed ]. Available from:


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