Miller School Students Present Study on Benefits of the Visual Arts in Medical Education

Reading Time: 2 minutes

An innovative University of Miami Miller School of Medicine program, the Fine Art of Healthcare, is helping medical students develop their observation, listening and communicating skills, according to a recent study.

From left, Ethan Adre, Jacob Rosewater, Andrew Masciarella, and Emily Mejia.

A team of Miller School students presented their study, “The Fine Art of Healthcare: Training Future Health Professionals through the Visual Arts,” at the University of  Central Florida’s recent Global Health Conference, “Arts in Medicine: Integration and Healing,” in Orlando.

“There is growing evidence that arts and humanities programs in medical education lead to greater insight into the human condition and the importance of perspective and culture,” said Gauri Agarwal, M.D., associate dean for clinical curriculum. “These programs have been shown  to enhance communication skills, listening skills, observational skills, empathy, wellness and a certain tolerance of ambiguity, all of which are critical to the practice of medicine.”

The Fine Art of Healthcare is a collaborative program with the University of Miami’s Lowe Art Museum that employs visual thinking strategies. Hope Torrents, school programs coordinator at the museum, launched the program in 2009. “When we started, there were very few programs that incorporated the visual arts into medical education programs,” she said. “Now, there are a plethora of them.”

Andrew Masciarella, a second-year medical student and study co-author, said he thinks all medical students should be required to participate because it provides a humanistic perspective to the patient interview process that supplements the scientific approach. “The patient encounter should be a conversation where you learn more about the patient and his or her situation, akin to analyzing a work of art. It’s up to the beholder to figure out what may be going on.”

Masciarella, Ethan Adre, Jacob Rosewater, Andrew Masciarella, Emily Mejia, and Nidhi Patel were co-authors of the study, which analyzed 357 survey responses from 2018 to 2019 with the following findings:

  • 89 percent of participants believe that this experience was worthwhile
  • 52 percent of participants think that their observation and listening skills improved
  • 60 percent feel the program has merit in collaborative practice
  • 74 percent identify concepts taught in this workshop as vital professional and communication skills
  • 91 percent believe this is relevant to clinical practice.

A formal evaluation of the efficacy of the fine arts program in improving students’ clinical diagnostic, observation and communication skills is under way, according to Dr. Agarwal.  “We are actively working on increasing the presence of the medical humanities in our curriculum,” she said. “We recognize that they are of great benefit to our students and, ultimately, their patients.”