Art in physician education

Medical schools throughout the globe understand the benefits of incorporating arts and humanities into their curriculum. They recognize art as a powerful education tool.1


The University of California at Irvine School of Medicine describes the purpose of their program in medical humanities and arts:


"The program’s goal is to show medical students how literature and the arts can help them better understand and empathize with their patients’ experiences; and ultimately help them treat their patients more humanely and effectively."2


Other medical schools believe in the value of including arts and humanities in their curricula. According to NYU School of Medicine, the value of this addition is clear:

"The humanities and arts provide insight into the human condition, suffering, personhood, our responsibility to each other, and offer a historical perspective on the medical practice. Attention to literature and the arts helps to develop and nurture skills of observation, analysis, empathy, and welf-reflection--skills that are essential for humane medical care."3

According to Cheryl L. McLean, editor of the International Journal of the Creative Arts in Interdisciplinary Practice, 

"Humanistic Medicine is a growing trend today as more medical professionals integrate the arts into their practice to improve communication with their patients and build better relationships. A recent study found that over half of all medical schools in the United States involved the arts in some form in learning activities (Rodenhauser, Strickland, and Gambala). This survey showed that the arts are used to foster student well-being, enhance teaching and learning, and improve clinical and relational skills, for example, observation and diagnostic skills, reflection and insight."4

Also, art appreciation has been shown to improve team collaboration in medical settings.5

[1] State of the Field Committee. (2009). State of the field report: Arts in healthcare 2009. Washington, DC: Society for the Arts in Healthcare. [2] University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. Program in medical humanities and arts. Accessed February 1, 2015. [3] New York University School of Medicine. Mission statement. Accessed February 2, 2015. [4] Arts Crossing Borders. Accessed July 26, 2013. [5] Reilly JM, Ring J, Duke L. Visual thinking strategies: a new role for art in medical education. Fam Med. 2005;37(4):250-252.

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