American medical schools, those bastions of left-brain muscle-flexing, continue their march toward whole-mindedness. Yesterday’s Boston Globe reports that Harvard Medical School has followed the lead of places like Mount Sinai Medical College and begun taking its students to art museums. The goal: To improve young physicians’ observation and diagnostic skills.

This isn’t about the artsy-fartsy or touchy-feely. It’s about dollars and cents — and sometimes life and death. As The Globe notes:

A study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine show[ed] that after completing the class, [the Harvard] students’ ability to make accurate observations increased 38 percent. When shown artwork and photos of patients, students were more likely to notice features such as a patient’s eyes being asymmetrical or a tiny, healed sore on an index finger. Observations by a control group of students who did not take the class did not change.”

3 Responses to “Take two Matisses and call me in the morning”

  1. Bonnie Hill says:

    I just read the Brigham and Women’s Hospital report last week and was excited because I am working on a similar program for the University of Minnesota at the Weisman Art Museum.
    I am a practicing family physician and artist who believes we can do better in teaching the art of medicine. The education director at the museum told me she was reading your book, and as it turns out, you know my husband, George Dow (career consultant at Right Mgmt), who had it on his bookshelf for me. I am finding it really hits on things I have known, even since childhood, but have not previously been valued in medicine. I am hoping to do a Bush fellowship in the area of Art and Medicine, and see where that would take me. At some point perhaps we could chat. Thanks for writing the book!

  2. Carin Doben says:

    I have been teaching art history/art appreciation programs geared to creative thinking and integration of class curriculum for twenty-five years. My son is a surgeon and my daughter a first grade teacher and artist. I would like to see more public awareness regarding the necessary change in the way we educate our children! I sure hope this administration is able to make some progress. Have you met with President Obama or his education team?

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