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Paul McHugh Program for Human Flourishing

Our vision is to achieve more humanistic clinical practice relevant to human health and flourishing.

Our mission is to bring the body of scientific evidence from interdisciplinary scholarly research on the key pathways to human health and flourishing to an audience of clinicians and clinicians-in-training, locally and globally, as reflected in our motto per scientiam ad sapientiam (through science to wisdom).

Established in 2015, the Paul McHugh Program for Human Flourishing currently consists of three faculty members from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The Program aims to expand to include faculty collaborators from the School of Nursing, Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, as well as from other universities.

The McHugh Program is ultimately focused on enhancing the state of being known as human flourishing. Aristotle used the word eudaimonia (based on older Greek tradition) to describe this highest human good. (Eudaimonia is commonly translated as happiness, but human flourishing is considered a more accurate translation.[1]) The link between eudaimonia and virtue of character (ethikē aretē) was one of the central concerns of ancient ethics, and continues to be a subject of much controversy. Other topics relevant to human flourishing include family, friendship, community, beauty, forgiveness, religion, purpose, and meaning.

Our own review of the scientific evidence in this area has thus far identified family, education, employment, and community as four of the key pathways to human health and flourishing. Each of these four pathways involves something important. And each demands effort, usually extended over time (“nothing worth having comes easily”), as well as personal responsibility for the outcome. We can speak of each of the pathways “instrumentally” (as “means” to the “ends” of human flourishing) as each encourages individual capacities, challenges the self-centered, contributes to themes that reinforce flourishing, and combats the “languishing” tendency. However these four pathways are not only instrumental “means” but also “ends” in that they represent, in themselves, domains in which a flourishing life can occur, bringing with them their own reinforcement and offering envisionable goals with encouraging exemplars. For a summary of the scientific evidence supporting these four pathways as key to human health and flourishing, we refer you to Dr. McHugh’s talk on human flourishing as well as other suggested readings.

As a field, psychiatry has been concerned primarily with improving the health of patients suffering from a range of psychiatric conditions. However, the Johns Hopkins Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences has always been interested in something more. Starting with our scientific founder Adolf Meyer, our Department has operated on the core tenet that mental health is not simply the lack of mental illness and we have long been a leader in humanistic clinical practice relevant to human health. In their seminal work The Perspectives of Psychiatry,[2] Paul R. McHugh and Phillip R. Slavney incorporate Meyer’s emphasis on the well-being of the whole person into a systematic approach to psychiatric formulation. The Perspectives of Psychiatry emphasizes psychiatry's unifying concepts while accommodating its diversity and distills psychiatric practice into four explanatory methods: diseases, dimensions of personality, goal-directed behaviors, and life stories.[3] An understanding of these fundamental methods, enables clinicians, researchers, and scholars to organize and evaluate psychiatric information and to develop a confident approach to practice and research.[4]

“One of the essential qualities of the clinician is interest in humanity, for the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.”- Francis Peabody[5]

Advances in science and technology have helped millions of people live longer and healthier lives. Although medicine has been relatively successful at incorporating an abundance of new scientific information into clinician training, it has resulted in one which is more focused on genes and molecules than on understanding the human being as an individual. In addition, the need for rapid and comprehensive medical documentation has led to an emphasis on computer input at the expense of the clinician-patient encounter. As a consequence, patients today often feel that their clinicians don’t know them as individuals. This has adverse repercussions for the therapeutic relationship of trust and healing which must be in place for effective patient care. Clinician training focused solely on science and technology comes at a significant cost to both learners and patients.

As recognition of the need for clinicians to become more humanistic in their care of patients continues to grow among medical leaders, the McHugh Program is well poised to make a significant contribution to the education of not only psychiatrists, but all medical clinicians. The Program will build on the Department’s deep awareness that all patients – as human beings - are integrated wholes whose various aspects—physical, psychological, rational-volitional, emotional, moral—cannot be properly understood separately or in isolation from each other, to lead all clinicians and clinicians-in-training towards more humanistic clinical practice relevant to human health and flourishing.

The Program will do this by creating rigorously designed and evaluated, globally-available medical curricula aimed at broadening the understanding of what it means – for both patients and clinicians – to be human, live well, experience loss, encounter disease, and engage in a therapeutic relationship. In addition to dissemination of its own educational research, the Program will share the body of interdisciplinary scholarly research (including population-level data) on the key pathways to human health and flourishing, locally and globally. All of this will be achieved by sponsoring public educational activities - seminars, lectures, panel discussions –, producing books, monographs, and peer-reviewed research articles, developing online healthcare education curricula around the pathways relevant to human health and flourishing. The Program will also train and mentor future leaders in humanistic clinical practice, human flourishing, and humanistic healthcare curriculum development.


 Director: Margaret S. Chisolm, M.D. | Associate Director: Paul R. McHugh, M.D.

Funding for the McHugh Program currently comes from private foundations and philanthropic contributions. Make a gift.

Contact Us

To learn more about the Paul McHugh Program for Human Flourishing and to get involved with any of our educational activities, please contact:

Director Margaret Chisolm at or 410-502-3150

Dr. Chisolm can also be contacted via Twitter @whole_patients


[1] Daniel N. Robinson. (1999). Aristotle's Psychology. Published by Daniel N. Robinson.
[2] Paul R. McHugh, M.D., and Phillip R. Slavney, M.D., 1998) The Perspectives of Psychiatry, 2nd edition, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
[3] Peters ME, Taylor J, Lyketsos CG, Chisolm MS. Beyond the DSM: The Perspectives of Psychiatry Approach to Patients. The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders. 2012;14(1):PCC.11m01233. doi:10.4088/PCC.11m01233.
[4] Margaret S. Chisolm, M.D., and Constantine G. Lyketsos, M.D., M.H.S., (2012) Systematic Psychiatric Evaluation: A Step-by-Step Guide to Applying The Perspectives of Psychiatry, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
[5] Peabody, Francis (1927). "The care of the patient". JAMA 1927 88 (12): 877–882.

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