Clinician’s Eye

clinician's eye logo uva

Medical Attention: Schooling the Clinician's Eye In the Museum

A joint venture of the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine’s Center for Health Humanities and 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. uva Students drawing on clip boardDeveloped 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.

In the two-hour workshop, participants are challenged by museum and medical educators to slow down their looking and observe, inventory, and articulate in a nonjudgmental way what they see in the art before them. Small-group exercises in mindful attention, description and interpretation (noting the difference between these actions), teamwork, and communication engage and enhance learners’ visual literacy, pattern painting of woman in red dressrecognition, verbal/listening facilities, cultural openness and respect, creative imagination, and tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty. These in turn hone learners’ clinical competencies: diagnostic acumen, collaboration, compassion, self-awareness, reflection, continuous improvement, and problem-solving. Participants respond enthusiastically to CE and, on survey, demonstrate gains in their tolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty. Another of CE’s benefits is its safe setting apart from clinical practice and in the presence of well-made art, which can refresh, renew, comfort, and inspire.

While developed for medical students, the CE workshop is effective for clinicians of all stripes and seniority and for interprofessional teams. Our preferred venue is the museum, using art works in temporary exhibitions and in the permanent collection, but learners also respond positively to CE as a classroom exercise using projected images.

In 2014-2015, CE was part of an interdisciplinary educational project, “Art, Contemplation, and Wellness,” supported by Open Grounds at UVA; CE was written up in an issue of Open Grounds’ publication Changing Views (fall 2015). We presented on CE for the DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER), a cultural program of the National Academy of Sciences, in Washington DC in February 2015, and at the national meeting of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities In Houston in October 2015. In June 2016, we made a presentation about CE at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of “The Art of Examination,” an invitation-only meeting of 130 museum educators and their medical school partners from across the US and Europe.

Click here for CHANGING VIEWS article.


Marcia Day Childress PhD
Professor Emerita of Medical Education
Center for Health Humanities and Ethics
University of Virginia School of Medicine

M. Jordan Love PhD
Academic Curator and Interim Co-Director
Fralin Museum of Art
University of Virginia