Doctors and Art and School

Medical students have begun coming to the Columbus Museum of Art where I lead tours. And this has been happening across the country—medical schools partnering with art museums to help their students develop the human side of being a doctor. What exactly can happen when medical students do their rounds at an art museum?

  • From their first year in medical school, students are taught to observe. And art museums are all about visual literacy. On art tours, students are invited into a deeper seeing: to notice what at first is not apparent, to recognize patterns and anomalies, and then to make meaning of what they see. This training of the eye in the museum can find use by the bedside.
  • Art helps to develop empathy. Paintings and sculptures invite people out of themselves to consider what comes from the mind of an artist. Such interaction with art gives medical students practice in becoming more open and mindful of others. It helps them see their patients as more than bodies.
  • The arts can bring relief for medical students under chronic pressure. In a museum, these students often find company on the journey. Art, after all, shows the pressures, hopes, and fears common to human experience. Learning to reduce their own stress will help medical students see the benefits of easing the anxiety of their patients.

More than ever, I’m convinced that art should be included, not only in medical school, but in every curriculum. All students can benefit from seeing well, from showing empathy, and from finding relief from tension.


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