AMSA's 2015 Annual Convention
Join Us Next Spring
in Washington, DC!

February 26 - March 1, 2015 

Do We Really Need the Arts in Medicine

The New Physician Summer 2014

Hello there, AMSA! I am very excited to work as your national president for the 2014–2015 year. I have just graduated medical school and moved from sunny South Florida to Sterling, Virginia, where the AMSA headquarters is located. I am delaying residency for a year to work for you, our members. If you ever want to know how to get more involved or how to invigorate your chapter, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

In this issue we can see that students can be vastly more creative than we are allowed to express during our rigorous and highly scientific training. How can we tie this font of creativity into our education? 

Several studies have shown a positive effect on patient care when students are allowed to think and act creatively. Students that take art courses in medical school leave with increased observation skills and an enhanced ability to empathize with their patients. Knowing that the history from your patient is the key to diagnosis, this is especially pertinent. Students taking these courses are encouraged not only to describe the paintings in broad terms, but also describe how the subject might be feeling. Now imagine being in a patient encounter with this improved skill set, being able to observe your patient not just as a puzzle to be solved, but also as a person with emotions. This sounds like something that should be a part of every patient encounter, but as you journey through medical school, the ability to view patients as individuals can become lost. The many faces, names and diseases can become blurred by both physical and emotional fatigue. So having the ability to forge a connection with your patient through increased observational skills is a goal we should all strive for. 

Already, some medical schools have classes that focus on the arts and humanities for a variety of purposes. Besides studying paintings to improve observational skills, some schools have classes dedicated to poetry and prose to help students connect with their emotions and those of their patients. Feedback from these courses has been largely positive, with students feeling that they are allowed to express themselves constructively. They feel that they have the ability to connect with both their patients and peers in ways that they had not been able to attain previously. Also, with next year’s changes to the MCAT, focusing on being able to perform critical analysis and reasoning, it is clear that the arts are coming to the forefront of medical education.

So the next time you are in a study rut, it might be helpful to go to an art gallery and stretch those creative wings. 

What do you think? Should medical schools try to incorporate the arts into education? Is it worth students’ limited time? E-mail

Dr. Britani Kessler is AMSA’s national president and a recent graduate of Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine.