March 2023 What I’m Thinking About

Getting to the Heart of the Matter: Critical Musings on Love as Pedagogy in Health Professions Education

Katie Lee Bunting (she/her), MScOT

Assistant Professor of Teaching, MOT Curriculum Chair
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Date: Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Time: 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Hybrid: Life Sciences Centre 1312 CMR & Zoom*

Zoom Details: For connection details, please email


“The choice to love is a choice to connect – to find ourselves in the other.” (hooks, 2001, p. 93). Health professions students are relational humans with complex and full lives who are learning to work with relational humans with complex and full lives (Noddings, 2012). Many come to the health professions because of a deep caring for humanity, and a desire to make a positive impact on folks’ wellbeing and health (Piemonte, 2018). Yet, when we look critically at our pedagogical practices in health professions education, caring pedagogies are not the norm. Rather, either implicitly or explicitly, we value objectivity, stoicism, and disconnection, over subjectivity, emotionality, and relationality (Clouder, 2005; Kreitzer et al., 2019; Wolcott et al., 2021). Research over the last decade has drawn attention to this tension, and the adverse effects it can have on students’ learning and wellbeing, faculty wellbeing, and health professional’s wellbeing (Hafferty & O’Donnell, 2015; Newmann et al., 2011; Pololi et al., 2009). I would assert that there are few constructs more subjective, emotional, and relational than love. With roots in Black American liberation justice work (hooks, 1981; Monahan, 2011) and critical pedagogy (Freire, 2008; Ohito, 2019), love has gained increasing attention within higher education in the Global North as a transformative pedagogical approach with potential impacts extending beyond the classroom (Gunnarsson, 2014). However, love continues to be viewed as taboo and even silly within health professions education (Piemonte, 2018). Using both critical feminist theory and relational cultural theory, this WITA discussion will explore these tensions, along with the potential of love as a transformative pedagogy for health professions education.


Katie graduated with her MScOT from the University of Toronto in 2004. She is very fortunate to have worked with a diversity of folks across numerous practice contexts when she worked as an occupational therapist for 10 years. Katie moved into occupational therapy education in 2014, after the birth of her first child, and is currently an Assistant Professor of Teaching with the department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy at UBC. Katie really loves the challenges and rewards of being an educator. She also really values working with, and learning from, her colleagues at UBC’s the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology as an Instructional Skills Workshop Facilitator. Outside of work, Katie loves to spend time with her family, their senior dog Sid, and her friends. In particular, she finds meaning and joy in cooking, gardening, spending time in nature, and occasional binge watching series! She holds deep gratitude to the Stó:lō Nation, the səl̓ilwətaɁɬ təməxʷ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nation, and the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) Nation, who are, and have always been, stewards to the lands that now nourish her and her family. Katie is of Irish and French settler background.