Why are medical students doing rounds at the art museum?

HWCOM students doing rounds at The Frost.

HWCOM students doing rounds at The Frost.

You expect to see medical students doing rounds at a hospital, but at an art museum?

That’s exactly what a group of Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine (HWCOM) students were doing on a Friday afternoon at The Frost. They’re called medical art rounds. And this was the first one held by the College through its Panther Learning Communities and Medical Humanities Club.

Art rounds, for short, are designed to teach medical students that there’s an art to the way of looking at things and people.

Dr. Amilcar Castellano lecturing at The Frost.

Dr. Amilcar Castellano lecturing at The Frost.

“We’re trying to help them analyze images better,” says Dr. Amilcar Castellano, who usually teaches pathology but was there teaching visual strategies. “They’re going to see images all the time—X-rays, CT scans. They’re going to examine people’s skin, eyes, their demeanor, their behavior, and the more they observe, the easier it will be for them to fish out symptoms and signs that to other people may not be as evident.”

The backdrop for the students’ visit is artist Carol Brown Goldberg’s Tangled Nature exhibition, which includes a giant collaborative canvas the artist invited the students to leave their mark on using black markers.

For second-year medical student Valerie Polcz, that was the highlight of the rounds.

“It was exciting to be able to contribute and know that you were a part of the creation of the final work of art, not to mention extremely relaxing,” she says.

Valerie Polcz and other medical students "making marks" on the collaborative exhibit.

Valerie Polcz and other medical students “making marks” on the collaborative exhibit.

Polcz believes “the arts have an important role to play not only in medical education but patient health” and Castellano is there to show the students that intersection.

Marin Gillis, chief of HWCOM’s Division of Ethics, Humanities and the Arts, is a strong proponent of art rounds. She says studies have shown that, among other things, art rounds improve students’ diagnostic skills, improve their observation of human emotions in faces and body language, help them observe objectively, and communicate collectively.

“Other medical schools have educational interventions like arts rounds,” say Gillis, “but we have a unique collaboration with The Frost, the division, and the Medical Humanities Club that offers students a range of opportunities to enhance humanistic patient care as well as their own resilience.”

Medical art rounds are turning art museums into museums of science and students into better doctors.