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Art in Medical Education

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Photo courtesy of the New York Times








Does studying art enhance physicians’ observation skills, allowing them to pick up subtle signs of illness? In recent years, there has been an acknowledgment that studying art–and fine-tuning the art of seeing–helps medical students hone their skills. More medical schools are incorporating gallery visits and art classes into their curricula to sharpen students’ observational acuity.

Arts Practica, founded by Alexa Miller, helps medical professionals gain more skill in what they see. The organization offers training programs, gallery visits, and classes which encourage medical students to “learn to see.”  An article in the New York Times describes a forum at the Museum of Modern Art which convened educators and doctors to discuss teaching strategies melding art with medical education.

Another article in the Times describes “What Doctors Can Learn From Looking at Art.” A study which found that studying the arts and humanities in medical school promotes empathy was published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine; it was also referenced in an article on incorporating the arts into medical education. In addition, a study was done at Columbia and Cornell to assess the effect of an observational art course on medical students’ ability to reflect and tolerate ambiguity. In the “The Art Museum and Medical Education” the author writes about the benefits of having medical students and medical professionals see art and reflect.

More medical schools are adding an arts component to their curriculum, such as:

Participating in such classes may help medical students reflect and see more clearly, perhaps providing better care for patients. The Association of American Medical Colleges had a forum to discuss the arts and humanities in medical education, and the benefits they bring. Another article extols the benefits of art in medical education. And medical educators at Johns Hopkins are developing an app that prompts medical students and residents to look at art to hone their empathy. Finally, in response to COVID-19, the University of Virginia created a course for medical students that “reveals how art shaped our understanding of plagues.”  The University of Alabama created a course that uses art to combat bias.

The Association of American Medical Colleges issued a report on “The Fundamental Role of the Arts and Humanities in Medical Education“.  And finally, a medical student weighs in on creativity in medicine.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Post updated June 19, 2019, July 11, 2019, June 10, 2020, June 30, 2020, and December 10, 2020

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