Lately, medical school started using art as a way to educate their students. One such class was started by Dr. Irwin Braverman, a Yale professor of dermatology, who observed that his students didn’t always use their eyes to look for clues to the patient’s illness but instead relied on technology to get a diagnosis. He tried to improve their visual acuity by making them study art, which proved a good idea as 10 percent more of the students showed signs of improvement.
This led to further studies of the matter by other educators, among them Dr. Joel Katz from Harvard who in 2003 developed the course “Training the Eye: Improving the Art of Physical Diagnostic” aimed at first and second-year medical school students.
“Very early in clinical training, students stop trusting they physical exam skill,” stated Dr. Katz. “They get labs and radiology to replace the exam. We’re trying to teach them to trust their vision, to look carefully before making judgments.”
This type of art program in a medical school is now country wide developing the observational skills of future doctors. They learn to think broadly and consider several possibilities before deciding the final diagnosis.
Ivana Viani, a Harvard medical student, learned a lot from such classes.
“In class, we do exercises where we’re not allowed to look at the center of the painting,” she said. “When you examine the periphery, it’s amazing how much detail you see. Now when I walk into a patient room, I look around. Do I see cigarettes popping out of her purse? Does she have greeting card and flowers? Or is she alone?”