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Creative Pursuits During Medical School

A recent article in the New York Times about the Bard Hall Players, a theater company consisting of medical students at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, highlights the importance of engaging in stress-reducing activities during medical school. Many medical students find creative pursuits to be enjoyable while also enhancing their understanding of the human condition.  As a second-year medical student says in the article, “When you have the ability to see other people’s lives and put yourself into them, then it helps you serve them better and understand what they’re going through in a different way.”

Columbia is not the only medical school with opportunities for students to engage in creative outlets. Harvard’s Arts and Humanities Initiative promotes involvement in the arts and states that, “The arts and humanities are powerful tools in medical education that have the potential to improve professionalism, reflection and empathy among physicians and trainees, foster humanism, reduce burnout, enhance perspective, sharpen physicians’ analytic and diagnostic skills, and improve teamwork and communication.” More information about Harvard Medical School’s focus on arts education can be found here.

At Yale, they have incorporated a course in observational skills—at the Yale Art Museum—for its first-year medical students. At Penn State, there is a required humanities elective. The Music and Medicine program at Cornell provides opportunities for musicians to collaborate and create music. More medical schools seem to be adopting creative programs in an effort to incorporate both creativity and reflection into their training programs.

A recent article describes the benefits of acting classes on medical students and medical faculty, especially in regard to developing empathy. Improv classes at Wright State describes how it teaches medical students about “discrimination against minority groups.” At the University of Rochester School of Medicine, theater classes help participants understand oppression and bias.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

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