Arts-Based Education

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Twenty-first century medical education at all levels includes a robust program of arts-based learning opportunities. Narrative medicine and visual thinking strategies (VTS) are two prime examples of arts-based educational modalities currently used at UVA and other leading medical schools to improve young clinicians’ core clinical skills of attention/observation, analysis, interpretation, curiosity, compassion, communication, perspective-taking, self-reflection, emotional resilience, and tolerance of ambiguity/uncertainty. These essential skills—sometimes referred to as physicians’ nonprocedural, humanistic skills—are arguably better tutored through active participatory learning rather than didactic instruction and better rehearsed in practices that are analogous to clinical situations rather than in actual patient interactions. On both counts, the arts offer methods and materials for learner engagement that is, in its own right, active, probing, creative, collaborative, and reflective.

At UVA, arts-based medical education developed in the Center for Health Humanities and Ethics includes initiatives such as Clinician’s Eye and Storying Illness. Arts-based programming usually involves spirited collaboration with experts in other fields and university programs, such as the Fralin Museum of Art and clinical departments where faculty have expertise in narrative medicine.

Clinicians Eye

A joint venture of the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine’s Center for Health Humanities Ethics and UVA’s Fralin Museum of Art, Clinician’s Eye (CE) is an interactive workshop using visual art analysis to improve core clinical skills of observation, communication, collaboration, compassion, and reflection. Developed in 2012-2013, CE takes cues from other medical school/museum partnerships but is our own program, designed by the museum’s academic curator and piloted with medical students. In May 2014, CE became a required part of UVA’s medical curriculum.


Photo of: uva students drawing in art classPhoto of: uva students drawing in art class