The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Medical students take art along with anatomy

Reading poetry, learning to sculpt clay or attending a symphony performance for school isn't the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of a medical student's coursework.

However, many medical schools ask their students to do a bit more outside of studying the specifics of medicine.

Medical humanities courses have been in place for about 20 years, but are now becoming more and more popular among medical students, according to M. Brownell Anderson, senior associate vice president of medical education for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

She said schools are beginning to implement humanities courses more into their curriculum and the classes are required by many schools.

According to the AAMC, there are currently 155 colleges that offer medical humanities courses. Of those courses, 89 are required by the school that offers it.

"Only knowing science makes it difficult to understand patients," Anderson said. "The humanities bring a new perspective to medical work."

The Medical College of Wisconsin offers one such course each February as an elective for its fourth year students.

According to Arthur Derse, clinical professor of bioethics and emergency medicine at MCW, the course covers a wide range of topics, including literature, poetry, art, theater and music.

"Students that are interested in the humanities really like it," Derse said. "They tell us it gives them a chance to think about their role as physicians. They get to express themselves in a way that they don't in medical school."

Students that participate in the course are required to keep a journal on their experience.

Derse said not all students feel the humanities course will benefit them.

"There are students who say they didn't come to medical school to read poetry," Derse said. "But no one is in this class that doesn't want to be there."

According to Derse, MCW offers many ways outside of the elective course for students to engage themselves in the humanities.

The school has a student reading group that discusses works with medical-related topics, an annual student art show and a collection of stories and poems written by students are published each year.

Humanities courses also allow medical students to build on skills they may not necessarily be able to develop in classes that are strictly scientific.

"(The humanities) educate the imagination," said Virginia Chappell, associate professor of English at Marquette. "They touch our emotions in a way that the hard and social sciences don't."

Humanities courses also allow students to improve their communication skills by learning self-expression.

"You want doctors to be able to listen to you and care for you," Derse said. "Students that take humanities courses are the type you'd like to have as your doctors."

According to Derse and Chappell, the humanities also lay a good foundation for undergraduate students who plan to go into medical school after graduation.

Chappell said humanities give people a broader sense of the human condition, which allows them to better relate to other people.

According to Anderson, the humanities help students to achieve a medical education because "medicine is as much an art as it is a science."

She said sciences are exact, but arts are less exact and more fluid and make it easier to respond to new situations.

"There is no textbook that tells you how to interact with another person," Anderson said.

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