What Medical Students Can Learn From Art Museums

A hospital is not just a laboratory. A patient is not simply a diagnosis. And medicine is often more than a science.

“We are pretending to be accurate scientists but we’re really social scientists,” Alexandra Charrow, a resident in internal medicine and dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told The Huffington Post. “We’re dealing with human beings. The way we collaborate will patients will not be based on their numbers, it will be based on their non-objective data.”

Charrow recognizes the importance of exploring subjective modes of thinking in her medical practice and evolution. And while art may not seem like the most essential aspect of a medical curriculum, amidst a stream of facts, diagrams, equations and machines, its value is critical. Standing before a carved sarcophagus from 350 B.C. can communicate the unspeakable magnitude of death and dying more than a textbook ever could.

As part of their humanistic curriculum, residents at Brigham and Women’s Hospital are mandated to attend what are called Art and Medicine workshops at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, located less than a mile away. The program of study is designed to help doctors treat their patients as people, not just symptoms.

“We focus on the human side of being a doctor,” Brooke DiGiovanni Evans, the MFA’s head of gallery learning, told HuffPost. Using artwork as a jumping off point, the residents converge to discuss the challenges of both treating patients and coping with the demanding lifestyle of a medical practitioner.

Often the discussion will begin with a close reading of a work of contemporary art coupled with a single question: how does this work of art relate to your current life situation? In the neutral environment of the museum, doctors can discuss their pressures, fears, and hopes, exposing vulnerabilities that —> Read More