Medicine and Art: Medical Humanities

Live Science’s “The Art of Diagnosis: Paintings Stand in for Patients” offers an interesting intersection of medicine and art.

Since I may, someday, be teaching a humanities course, and I love medicine in education, I thought I would bookmark this.

This technique was developed more than a decade ago at the medical school to help students become more skillful at diagnosing patients once they became doctors, according to Irwin Braverman, professor emeritus and senior research scientist in dermatology. About 16 other medical schools either are or have employed a similar form of observation training, and it is being developed at others, according to Braverman.

Medical schools teach future doctors to memorize patterns in order to recognize syndromes, which are collections of different signs and symptoms, Braverman said. With a rash, for example, students learn to look for two components: first, the distribution of the rash, and second, the morphology of the individual lesions in the rash. Those two characteristics together allow a doctor to make a diagnosis. However, visual analysis, like that honed by describing the paintings, becomes important when a rash doesn’t fit a pattern the doctor recognizes, he told LiveScience in an e-mail.

Hmmm… Visual rhetoric.

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