Medicine remains one of the fields that is defined by a hierarchy that would rival the world of Downton Abbey at its pinnacle. Over fifty years ago medical training lost track of the humanities and with it the ability to effectively connect with colleagues and patients as fellow humans.
The intensity of preparation for acceptance to a top medical school only deepens with competition for internships and residencies. Doctors in training represent the best and the brightest, but often not the top of the class when it comes to emotional intelligence.
At a time when college is increasingly defined as vocational prep, with students choosing majors based on perceived guarantees of post-grad employment, medicine is stepping back from its singular focus on the sciences and reintroducing the humanities to remove barriers created by hospital hierarchy, promote teamwork and improve patient communication.
Dr. Tara Narula, a medical contributor for CBS This Morning, reported Thursday on a program in Boston that “teaches physicians in training to use their eyes and ears to connect with patients and enhance the practice of medicine.”
“At the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, doctors, nurses and Harvard medical students are helping reshape medical education. By day, members of the integrated teaching unit, or ITU, focus on treating patients. But at night, they fix their sights on works of art.
At the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, art becomes a catalyst to strengthen clinical and interpersonal skills, softening the hard science of medicine with creative expression.
Dr. Joel Katz designed the art curriculum at Brigham and Women’s, which has become a model for other hospitals.
Katz chose the art museum because it “allows everybody to focus on an external object in a way that I would say takes the personal aspects out and lets them solve problems together.”
Activities are carefully designed to enhance team-building, and to break down the hospital hierarchy, junior staff members are paired with more senior colleagues. Observing and describing art is used to promote problem solving, communication, thinking outside the box and appreciating other perspectives.”
Increasingly, schools of medicine are recognizing the need to ‘humanize’ medical practitioners, including Columbia University’s program in Narrative Medicine and Stanford University’s Medicine and the Muse program. And a quick review of the best seller lists over the past decade, will reveal an impressive list of physicians who have exercised their talents in the humanities: Adam Verghese, Atul Gawande, Oliver Sachs, Siddhartha Mukherjee, and this month, Paul Kalanithi.
“With this program, Dr. Joel Katz hopes to find some of the human interaction that has been lost in medicine.
In fact, as recently as 50 years ago, humanities were at the core of medical practice. While research into this program’s effects is still ongoing, there is strong anecdotal evidence that both patients and practitioners benefit.”