This Journal Club Post was written by Kelly Brooks, M’16. This review article looks to synthesize the literature on a growing body of research that looks to examine the role of the arts in medical education based on the article by Lake, Jackson, and Hardman:A fresh perspective on medical education: the lens of the arts.

“We maintain that the ‘usefulness’ of the arts cannot simply be judged by the standards that have been set for technical competency, albeit that this is the dominant paradigm through which medicine and medical education currently function. To fall into this trap would be to miss the very essence of what makes the arts distinctive and important. The arts can, however, provide medical educators with a penetrating and dynamic set of tools for rethinking medical education and medical practice.” 1


Studies have shown that using the visual arts in medical education can improve medical students’ observational and diagnostic skills. 4,5 Investigators were able to show that students trained in this manner were more likely to accurately and fully describe clinical photographs of patients with medical conditions than students who participated only in the standard curriculum. Furthermore, students also improved their observational skills and increased their awareness of emotion and empathy.


Unlike other evidence-based models of education, evaluating the effectiveness of an arts-based education intervention is complex and nuanced. However, a review of the literature concluded that using the arts in medical education can be utilized and informs the following aspects of medical education: 1

1) a tool for professional development

2) a means for developing skills in the practice of teaching (pedagogy)

3) to critically approach the current approach of medical education

4) to view medical practice as a succession of performances



1) Consider ways to integrate the arts into your medical teaching practice (teaching students about observation, physical diagnosis and clinical reasoning).

2) How can skills of the humanities help in reflecting on your own personal clinical practice?

3) Can you relate how different mediums / art forms can inform or hone skills related to the practice of medicine? For example, what can creative movement/dance teach us about gaining surgical / procedural skills?

4) Consider taking 10-15min at the end of a work day, to freely write about a difficult patient encounter. What types of skills do creating narratives / creative writing exercises bring to medical education?



1 Lake J, Jackson L, Hardman C. A fresh perspective on medical education: the lens of the arts. Medical Education, 2015 Aug;49(8):759-72. doi: 10.1111/medu.12768. PMID: 26152488

2 Bleakley A. When I say… the medical humanities in medical education. Medical Education, 2015 Oct;49(10):959-60. doi: 10.1111/medu.12769. PMID: 26383067

3 Dennhardt S, Apramian T, Lingard L, Torabi N, Arntfield S. Rethinking research in the medical humanities: a scoping review and narrative synthesis of quantitative outcome studies. Medical Education, 2016 Mar;50(3):285-99. doi: 10.1111/medu.12812. PMID: 26896014

4 Edmonds K, Hammond MF. How can visual arts help doctors develop medical insight. Int J Art Design Education 2012; 31 (1): 78-89.

5 Shapiro J, Rucker L, Beck J. Training the clinical eye and mind: using the arts to develop medical students’ observational and pattern recognition skills. Medical Education 2006; 40: 263–268.


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