Exploring arts, humanities is now mandatory for UB medical students

Since Hippocrates, medical practice has been seen as both science and art. In the 21 century, amid ever-greater scientific advances, medical schools are working to maintain balance between the two, developing new ways to highlight the art of medicine.

On Dec. 5, first-year medical students at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will participate in a new requirement: attending the First Year Humanities Day.

UB medical students will hear about and discuss medicine as depicted in poetry, music and drawing; they will even be able to participate as artists themselves, drawing a nude model in one of the sessions as they learn to correlate findings from gross anatomy in a living body. Other topics include discussing health care in terms of cost, cultural attitudes and ethics.

“UB, along with other medical schools nationwide, understands that just as we require our students to develop scientific expertise, they also need to develop expertise in the art of practicing medicine,” says Michael Cain, MD, vice president for health sciences at UB and dean of the medical school.

“Our students must learn to appreciate and understand not just clinical symptoms but the individual who is experiencing them,” he says. “The medical school’s new humanities requirement is one way to achieve this goal.”

The half-day event, sponsored by the UB medical school’s Center for Medical Humanities, includes a broad range of workshops and lectures that use the arts, humanities, ethics and social sciences to teach the art of medicine and techniques of observation, analysis and self-reflection.

Members of the media are welcome to attend: for more information, contact Ellen Goldbaum, goldbaum@buffalo.edu and 716-645-4605.

Titles and speakers are:

  • “Bioethics and Ebola,” Miriam Schuchman, University of Toronto psychiatrist and bioethicist
  • “Cross-cultural health care: Delivering medical care in a manner we can afford,” Richard Klopper, Blue Cross/Blue Shield director for behavioral health science
  • “Happiness through positive psychology,” Michael Digiacomo, MD, child psychiatrist
  • “Images of the body: Representation of the nude,” Linda Pessar, MD, director, UB Center for Medical Humanities with Mariann Smith, curatorial assistant, Bryn Mawr College
  • “Life drawing,” Ginny O’Brien, curator of cducation, Anderson Galley
  • “Mindfulness practices for personal and professional use,” Susan Nierenberg, DNP, clinical assistant professor, UB School of Nursing
  • “Music and medicine: What we can learn about medicine through the lens of pop culture,” Sergio Hernandez, MD, UB associate professor of psychiatry and Zack Puca, UB medical student
  • “Poetry and medicine,” Harvey A. Berman, UB associate professor, Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology
  • “Poverty and health,” John Fudyma, MD, UB professor of medicine
  • “The captain of all these men of death: A social and cultural history of tuberculosis,” David Hertzberg, UB associate professor of history
  • “What more can I say? The numerous roles of doctors in society,” Peter Martin, MD, psychiatrist

All sessions are offered twice, from 9:15 – 10:30 a.m. and 10:45 – noon.

Linda Pessar, MD, director of the Center for Medical Humanities and UB professor emeritus of psychiatry, explains the goals of the center and the humanities day at UB.

“When science was relatively ineffective, the art of medicine was emphasized,” she says. “Now science is so robust that the fulcrum has shifted. While that is marvelous, medical education has sought new ways to emphasize the art of medicine, and turned to the humanities and humanism to complement clinical approaches.”

The center and the humanities day are designed to integrate humanities into the core medical curriculum, while tapping into resources in the greater Buffalo community. The center is collaborating with the Gold Humanism Society, UB’s Anderson Gallery, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Burchfield Penney Art Center and Just Buffalo Literary Center, among others. Pessar notes that these collaborations will grow, especially once the new medical school opens downtown, because the school will be closer to the city’s cultural center.

“From the time I was director of medical student education in psychiatry at UB, I have felt that people who become physicians rather than PhDs in science do so because there’s something that draws them empathically to people’s experience of illness and suffering,” says Pessar, “and they wish to help them as well as to understand the illness process.”

UB’s Center for Medical Humanities is dedicated to exploring and enriching that sensitivity in future physicians, she says.

“The practice of medicine is a complicated experience that draws on cultural, political, psychological and social strands,” she says. “While its bedrock is science, once you put two human beings in a room, understanding becomes much more complex.”

Read the full article on the University at Buffalo The State University of New York website here.

Media Contact Information:
Ellen Goldbaum
News Content Manager, Medicine
Tel: 716-645-4605
Twitter: @egoldbaum