Medical “arts”

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Now here is a study I can get behind.

A group of 36 first-year medical students from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia took a class in art observation at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. They looked at paintings and then discussed what they saw using creative questioning and reasoning. The six 90 minute sessions were taught by professional art educators using the “Artful Thinking” teaching approach, which emphasizes introspection and observation before interpretation.

As a result, the students became better observers with patients. Making a diagnosis when presented with complex visual clues is difficult. These students learned to use a structured approach that they began putting into practice immediately. This training is particularly applicable with ophthalmology, dermatology, and radiology, where diagnosis and treatments plans are based primarily on direct observation. The students also felt they had increased their empathy, although this was not verified by pre- and post -testing.

As a singer, I wonder if teaching music appreciation skills might have a similar effect. After all, doctors have to listen to patients as well as observe them. Just one more reason to support education in the arts.

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