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Studies at OU Medicine Tulsa Integrate Arts to Enhance Patient Care

TULSA — Exposure to a range of artistic mediums is helping medical students at the OU-TU School of Community Medicine expand their minds, sharpen observational skills and think about medicine at different levels. The objective of this area of study is to build greater understanding of patient experience, and perspectives on medicine, health and general well-being.

The OU-TU School of Community Medicine hosted an event in January to offer a similar experience to the general public at no cost to attend. Professor and Department of Internal Medicine Chairman Michael A. Weisz, MD., MACP, shared insights in an interactive, themed presentation titled “Art in Medicine.

Weisz said the idea to incorporate art studies in medical education began to evolve several years ago during a medical conference in Boston. “I visited a number of art galleries and heard talks on the relationship of art and medicine, learned more about the history of medicine, and saw examples of medicine presented in various art forms,” he said. “I thought about the value of art in helping students gain a better understanding of human need, which flows into patient care. The study of art builds human connections.” 

 In July 2018, the Art in Medicine curriculum became a requirement of the internal medicine clerkship at the School of Community Medicine. All third-year medical students and physician associate candidates participate in the eight-week course. More than 50 students are currently taking the course. Weisz said the curriculum is an interactive experience that encourages learning beyond the lecture halls, labs and classrooms, emphasizing life beyond medical school.

“Science and medicine are often very black and white. Yet, in medicine, we observe a lot of things, often looking beyond what is evident on the surface. This curriculum takes us out of the clinical care environment, where we may just talk about things. These studies keep minds active and engaged in many areas of human interest.”

According to Weisz, medical education hasn’t traditionally emphasized the well-being of the healthcare professional and increased incidents of burnout may be related to this oversight. “Taking care of yourself is really important. All course activities tie in some way to the practice of medicine, including having fun for the sake of mental health and well-being,” he said. “Students have told me that this change from educational norms ‘resets’ their brains. The impact is positive.”

The Art in Medicine presentation also involved Weisz’s colleague, Ryan Yarnall, M.D., who discussed data about ways this curriculum is used in medical education. “As we view self-expression in various forms of art – painting, sculpture, poetry and more - we are reminded that people are complex beings,” said Yarnall. “Physical, mental and emotional depth are all connected to well-being and wholeness.”

Event participants were able to view classic paintings as well as art created by patients, hear selected writings of medical students and see the history of medicine as portrayed in art.