A modern physician's job may consist largely of analyzing test results, but a good doctor is also focused on observation. Noticing details such as discolored skin, or body language that denotes discomfort, can provide important clues leading to a proper diagnosis.
So how can aspiring physicians develop a keen eye? New research suggests they should regularly leave the teaching hospital and head for the art museum.
A group of first-year medical students in Philadelphia who did just that, by taking a course focused on visual perception, significantly improved their observational skills. What's more, they reported they were already applying their heightened ability in their clinical work.
"Art training could be helpful across many specialties—especially ones like ophthalmology, dermatology, and radiology, where diagnosis and treatment plans are based primarily on direct observation," said Gil Binenbaum of the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. He's the senior author of the new study, which is published in the journal Ophthalmology.
The study, led by Jaclyn Gurwin, featured 36 first-year medical students. Half of them voluntarily attended six custom-designed, 90-minute lessons at the Philadelphia Museum of Art over a three-month period.
Instructors used an approach known as "Artful Thinking," which begins by observing and describing colors, shapes, and lines, before graduating to more complex concepts such as "comparing and connecting" and perspective-taking. Continue reading.