Integrating The Arts In Physician Training
Medicine and the Humanities:
Building Physicians’ Diagnostic Skills and Cultural Understandings
The Southeast Center for Education in the Arts is partnering with the Hunter Museum of American Art and The University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Chattanooga Campus on a project designed for 3rd year internal medicine students at UT that builds upon art and medical education programs jointly offered at museums including the Metropolitan Museum, the Yale Art Museum and the Cincinnati Museum of Art. A goal of current medical education is to implement innovative training programs that provide residents with both clinical and humanistic skills.
The program focuses on visual literacy, identification of salient details in paintings, recognition of individual biases when approaching images in paintings and the transfer of those skills to interaction with patients. To help the participants embody their learning, a theater-immersion specialist assists with critical kinetic issues at play in terms of movement, perceived space and nonverbal communication.
These experiences are coordinated with the medical faculty’s lectures and seminars. Gallery learning is co-facilitated by these physicians. After each session, participants will complete assessments consisting of short answer questions that ask them to consider what they experienced, to identify the skills they used for each task and to elaborate upon how these skills might relate to their work in the practice of medicine. All sessions are also recorded so that they can be assessed for future use.
The University of Tennessee College of Medicine, Chattanooga Campus, already has a strong track record in working with medicine and the humanities. The College has instituted weekly Relaxing, Rejuvenating and Rejoicing in Residency sessions into the residency training program to address issues of personal stress and the challenges of maintaining compassion within the demanding environment in which health care providers work.
Medical students traditionally engage in a rigorous scientific curriculum as they prepare for the practice of medicine. Over the past few decades medical educators have begun to recognize the need for enhanced observational and interpersonal skills to improve care giving. Today many medical schools have specific programs to enhance interpersonal skill development. They are generally located in preclinical training years (first and second years) and are administered by psychiatrists and psychologists.
From another perspective, the utilization of arts in the healing process has long been a part of innovative healthcare delivery programs. Shands Hospital and the University of Florida College of Medicine incorporate a broad arts program as part of their philosophy that arts are important in the care giving and healing. An arts installation at Emory University College of Medicine is designed to encourage creative thinking and enhance clinical observation.
This new Chattanooga program, supported by faculty from the UT College of Medicine located at Erlanger Hospital, the Hunter Museum curator of education (Adera Causey) and the SCEA director of theatre education (Laurie Melnik), is designed for more advanced medical students – those involved in patient care – and residents developing their practice skills beyond the classroom. In additional to enhancing interpersonal skills and clinical observation, another goal of the program is to diminish anxiety about treating the elderly and the impoverished, vital constituencies of the public Erlanger Hospital. Additionally, the medical faculty hopes to create interest in careers in geriatric and/or rural medical specialties that are so needed in the U.S. health care system today.