“What Does It Mean to Be?”: Ontology and Responsibility in Health Professions Education

Tasha R. Wyatt*, Rola Ajjawi, Mario Veen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Ontology is a highly abstract branch of philosophy that undertakes the science of what is and the claims we can make about the nature of being and existence. Health professions education's focus on knowledge or skill as discrete and measurable components or surface features of what it is to be a healthcare professional have preoccupied much scholarship and curricular design. Doing so has constrained the possibilities of thinking about being in new ways. In this chapter, we begin by describing what ontology is and why it is needed in health professions education, and then elaborate on the idea of an expanded ontology by drawing on the work of Heidegger, Latour, and Barad, philosophers that consider relationships and responsibility in their ontological work. In a departure from the ways in which health professions education has approached ontology, we adopt a philosophical orientation, where ontology is something you do rather than a lens or perspective you adopt or switch between. In introducing this expanded view, we hope to inspire healthcare educators to create space and contexts for trainees to bring their whole selves to the profession.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationApplied Philosophy for Health Professions Education
Subtitle of host publicationA Journey Towards Mutual Understanding
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9789811915123
ISBN (Print)9789811915116
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of '“What Does It Mean to Be?”: Ontology and Responsibility in Health Professions Education'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this