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Why All Radiologists Need to Take Art Classes

A sharp eye is a crucial skill for physicians. That’s why researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia have partnered with the Philadelphia Museum of Art to evaluate how art observation classes impact a physician’s skill sets.

Previous studies have shown that observing art can improve medical students’ recognition and descriptive skills. "The skills I learned studying fine arts in college are invaluable to me now as a physician. I saw the impact art education had on my approach to medicine, and I wanted to recreate that experience for others in the field," said Jaclyn Gurwin, MD, an Ophthalmology resident in the Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and the study's lead author.

In an effort to demonstrate the positive effects of art education on physicians, the researchers assigned 36 first-year medical students who had never studied art before to six 1.5-hour art observation classes at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The classes were taught using the “Artful Thinking” method, which focuses on introspection and observation as initial steps toward interpretation. The courses featured group discussions that encouraged questioning and reasoning, learning art terms, and sessions contemplating art.

Once the courses were over, the researchers saw immense improvement in the students’ “observational recognition skills.” One student noted that, “After just one session, I found myself listening to a radiologist discuss the same principles we used to look at art when analyzing a CT scan. Later I found our practice of creating narratives in the art class helped guide me when interacting with standardized patients."

The success of the classes has prompted The Perelman School of Medicine to offer first-year medical students art classes this fall.

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