During major rounds in 1998, Irwin M. Braverman, MD ’55, HS ’56, professor of dermatology, realized that residents could offer fuller descriptions of what they observed on their patients. “It occurred to me that if I asked them to describe an object they had no knowledge of at all, like a painting, they wouldn’t know what was important or not,” Braverman said. “They would describe everything in this object.”
Since this year, Braverman has taken medical students to the Yale Center for British Art for observational skills exercises. The program has been replicated by dozens of medical schools, and even by the New York police. And since then, such interactions between the humanities and medicine have multiplied across the country. Residents of Brigham and Women’s Hospital participate in workshops at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. A year ago, Harvard Medical School began integrating drama, dance, and literature into medical education to help students become more empathetic and reflective. Columbia requires its medical students to take a course in narrative medicine. More than a decade ago, Stanford launched the Medicine & the Muse program, which integrates the humanities into medical education and practice.
At Yale, such efforts began in 1983 with the creation of the Humanities in Medicine program and expanded with the realization that integrating the humanities into medical education can make for better doctors and better outcomes. . Writing, painting, and other arts help students and residents see their patients not just as symptoms or ailments, but as people living outside the hospital whose stories affect their health. Hearing these stories can build empathy between doctors and their patients.
“After all, we train to care for human beings,” says Anna Reisman, MD, associate professor of medicine and director of the Humanities in Medicine Program.
In this issue of Yale Medicine, we describe how faculty, residents, and students have worked together to integrate the humanities into the teaching and practice of medicine.