History, and contemporary literature, show us that the world of medicine has always been populated with those who branch out into various fields of study. To be very frank, those who have studied medicine in the past almost always participate in the humanities as well. Be it philosphy, history, astronomy or the visual arts, the figures in our collective past have never been confined to a single discipline - though they might be famous for their work in one field in particular. In the contemporary era we see a division between studies that was never the case in the previous generations. Look to any college campus and the division between the STEM majors and the Humanities majors is very clear, they hardly cross paths unless an elective is required for graduation.
Multiple studies have displayed the very real fact that students only benefit from a robust and diverse curriculum. For example, pupils who participate in music lessons are better in mathematics, as music is a langauge of whole numbers and fractions. By educating medical students & doctors in the appraisal of art (learning how to identify line, shadow, hue, and value) they in turn can apply that skill to the on-sight diagnosing of patients. Following these technical skills, there is also the realization that a culture's art mirrors its values. By comprehnding a work of art you are allowing yourself to learn a little bit about where another human being comes from, why that piece was created, why someone else has a positive or negative reaction to it, and so on. Understand the art and you make a connection with the people.
“The Indian Doctor”,Ave Moya, San Ildefonso Pueblo
According to Merriam-Webster, the term "Renaissance Man" has the following definition:
Noun: a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas
The Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say:
"Renaissance man, also called Universal Man, Italian Uomo Universale, an ideal that developed in Renaissance Italy from the notion expressed by one of its most-accomplished representatives, Leon Battista Alberti (1404–72), that “a man can do all things if he will.” The ideal embodied the basic tenets of Renaissance humanism, which considered man the centre of the universe, limitless in his capacities for development, and led to the notion that men should try to embrace all knowledge and develop their own capacities as fully as possible."
All knowledge is worth having. This phrase bears the weight of the centuries' old humanist perspective, at least in the notion of developing the self to the highest form possible. No one is an island, we all benefit from the advances of science as well as the arts.
Stephanie Cajigal; Rebecca E. Cooney, PhD, MedScape, July 1, 2016.
The physicans in this list, including surgeons, anesthesiologists, cardiologists and more, found complementary inspiration in both their scientific and artistic fields. Abstract paintings that emote the experience of a hectic hospital, poems that speak to endless empathy, photography of the rural landscape in which patients live, and novels reaching out to inoculate young people against bigotry are just a few examples of the creativity to be found in practitioners of medicine.
Finkel J. Contemporary art in medicine: the Cleveland Clinic art collection. Cardiovasc Diagn Ther. 2011 Dec;1(1):71-5. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2223-3652.2011.09.01. PMID: 24282686; PMCID: PMC3839134.
Abstract: "Fine art is good medicine. It comforts, elevates the spirit, and affirms life and hope. Art in the healthcare setting, combined with outstanding care and service, creates an environment that encourages healing and supports the work of medical professionals. As one of the world's great medical centers, Cleveland Clinic has always included the arts in its healing environment. The four founders and subsequent leadership encouraged artistic and musical expression by employees. Distinguished artworks have long hung on the walls. In 1983, an Aesthetics Committee was officially formed at Cleveland Clinic to address issues of art and design in Cleveland Clinic facilities."
Acosta, L. (2023). Academic Medicine, 98 (4), 457-457. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004721.
"The neurological examination is part of the art of medicine, but it is not something I had ever likened it to a piece of fine art, much less a 16th-century masterpiece. Then, one day, after countless administrations of cerebellar testing using the finger-to-nose test, I was struck by the similarity between my outstretched index finger paired to the index finger of the patient and the paired, outstretched fingers of God and Adam in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam."
And Internal Medicine REsident reflect on the power of poetry within the world of medicine. "The power of poetry’s use in medicine is in the way it speaks to the humanity of all of us; in poetry is the unparalleled ability to cut through medical jargon and speak to our hopes, wonderment, grief, joy, and even anger in the face of illness. The use of poetry in medicine has been documented as far back as the 12th century – physician Ibn Sina wrote a poem of 1326 verses that summarized medical knowledge of the Islamic world that then became the main method of dissemination of medical knowledge into medieval Europe. Currently, poetry is increasingly incorporated into medical education through medical humanities and narrative medicine – the idea that literature can be used as a medium to engage in the practices of attention, affiliation, and representation to encourage the empathetic and competent practice of healing."
"Dr. Matthew Wetschler is an emergency medicine physician-artist based in northern California. Alongside practicing medicine, Wetschler uses acrylic paint and plaster to create medically-inspired artistic pieces." In this interview, Dr. Wetschler speaks about his battle with depression and burnout, and how the inclusion of the humanities helped him to broaden his perspectives when treating patients.
In this interview with a new resident (Kimberly MM Isakov, MD) the winding path of seemingly disparate interests come together. "Studying photographs improved her eye for detail - she was able to spot abnormalities on x-rays faster than before. And at an interview for radiology residency positions, Kim connected with her potential supervisor over her love of German art and European fashion; the interviewer actually had to covertly double check her resume, making sure that her college degree was indeed in chemistry, and not in art history. Interests outside of medicine make doctors human – and ultimately help Kim connect with her medical colleagues and patients on a deeper level."
Illustrated by: Natalie Koscal, M.A.and Kim Knoper, M.A.
In this short comic, a doctor tells the story of a harrowing train ride where he and a conductor kept an overdose victim alive. He relfects on the emotional toll of such a shocking emergency occuring en route to a family gathering, and how the actions of a civilian revived not only the victim but his faith in the power of healing - and himself.
NIH-Kennedy Center initiative explores ‘Music and the Mind’
“A growing number of reports are appearing where music therapy has provided benefit to individuals with medical conditions as diverse as autism, chronic pain, and stroke,” he (Dr. Francis Collins) explains. “But there is so much we still don’t know about the effects of music in health broadly, and this partnership will help us to explore this uncharted territory.”
The Use of Visual Arts as a Window to Diagnosing Medical Pathologies
Bramstedt, Katrina A. PhD, MA , Aug 2016.
"Observation is a key step preceding diagnosis, prognostication, and treatment. Careful patient observation is a skill that is learned but rarely explicitly taught. Furthermore, proper clinical observation requires more than a glance; it requires attention to detail. In medical school, the art of learning to look can be taught using the medical humanities and especially visual arts such as paintings and film. Research shows that such training improves not only observation skills but also teamwork, listening skills, and reflective and analytical thinking."
Formal Art Observation Training Improves Medical Students’ Visual Diagnostic Skills
Naghshineh, Sheila M.D., et al., 2008 Jul; 23(7): 991–997.
"Despite evidence of inadequate physical examination skills among medical students, teaching these skills has declined. One method of enhancing inspection skills is teaching “visual literacy,” the ability to reason physiology and pathophysiology from careful and unbiased observation. Objective: To improve students’ visual acumen through structured observation of artworks, understanding of fine arts concepts and applying these skills to patient care."
"Have you heard people say visiting a museum is good for you? Why is that? Grace Calame-Mars, a Nursing Professional Development Specialist, and Carolyn Halpin-Healy, an Art Educator at The Met, know the first-hand benefit of art in museums as a tool to help our well-being. Hear about the art therapy program they helped organize for medical professionals at NYU Langone Hospital, where close-looking exercises improved clinical observation skills and strengthened empathy, which became valuable tools during the COVID-19 pandemic."
"The Antidote is a student-run and peer-reviewed journal founded in 2018 that seeks to provide a venue for those at the Medical College of Georgia and Augusta University to feature their literary and artistic works. The title, The Antidote, isan acknowledgement of the fact that it is emotionally and personally difficult to become a physician and to practice medicine in the 21st century, which presents unique challenges that degrade the physician-patient relationship, strain the resilience of those within the profession, and undercut the sacred nature of the calling of the profession. Our journal believes that creative expression is salutatory and that offering a forum for creative dialogues will encourage further engagement with narrative medicine and promote a more humanistic approach to healthcare."
"Rubor is an instrument of humanism and a creative forum for the humanities at the University of Utah School of Medicine. On behalf of readers and contributors in Salt Lake City, the greater Utah community, and beyond, Rubor seeks to provide a sense of community, belongingness, and expression of humanity, in the context of health and medicine, through its print journal and digital site."
"Ars Medica is a biannual literary journal, started in 2004, that explores the interface between the arts and healing, and examines what makes medicine an art. Ars Medica remains one of a handful of medical literary journals in Canada and worldwide, in the rapidly developing international field of the humanities in healthcare."
"Publishes original interdisciplinary studies of medicine and medical education. Research findings emerge from three areas of investigation: medical humanities, cultural studies, and pedagogy. Medical humanities covers literature on history, philosophy, and bioethics as well as social and behavioral sciences that have strong humanistic traditions. Inquiries based on cultural studies may include multidisciplinary activities involving the humanities; women's, African-American, and other critical studies; media studies and popular culture; and sociology and anthropology. Lastly, pedagogical perspectives elucidate what and how knowledge is made and valued in medicine, how that knowledge is expressed and transmitted, and the ideological basis of medical education."
"Founded in 1982, Literature and Medicine is a peer-reviewed journal publishing scholarship that explores representational and cultural practices concerning health care and the body. Areas of interest include disease, illness, health, and disability; violence, trauma, and power relations; and the cultures of biomedical science and technology and of the clinic, as these are represented and interpreted in verbal, visual, and material texts."
"Hektoen International is a free online journal of medical humanities published by the Hektoen Institute of Medicine. Its articles are first published in the appropriate Section, which is also the official publication date. The articles may later be featured in the quarterly Current Issue, in the Hektorama magazine, in Themes, and in the Social Media—for we think of our journal as a museum and its articles as its precious collection, to be exhibited again and again, like a Correggio or Titian, not archived and forgotten."