Is There a Role for Art in Medicine?

I received a book in the mail today.

It was packaged beautifully, in a beautifully taped brown box with the letter V-I-P on the side, right next to my name.

“Ooooh” I thought to myself. I was VIP!

My kids laughed from the other room, and I realized immediately that I must have muttered it aloud in delight.

Was fun to fantasize while it lasted. Kids sure know how to burst our bubble.

Anyhoo, I opened up the box (I unboxed it, in fact, and even attempted to create a clever reel doing it. But I don’t think “clever” accurately describes the ned result. You decide.)



The book’s title got me thinking.

Is there really a role for art in medicine?

I mean, sure, I’m in a physician Facebook group called Physician Crafters. And sure, I’ve introduced a collection into SoMeDocs called The Crafting Doctors, too.

But is art connected to better medicine?

I thought about this long and hard, and even researched this topic, and then decided that yes, there is a significant role for art in medicine.

The integration of art into healthcare settings and medical practice has been recognized for its potential to enhance patient care, promote well-being, and provide unique therapeutic benefits.


Here are some ways art intersects with medicine:


1. Therapeutic Benefits:

Art can be used as a therapeutic tool in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers. Engaging in artistic activities like painting, drawing, or sculpture can help patients express emotions, reduce stress, improve cognitive skills, and promote relaxation.

When I lived in Riverdale (a town in New York’s Bronx), I remember taking the bus in to work at Mount Sinai every day, along with a neighbor. She carried a guitar in with her (I think!) because her job was to sing to the patients. She would go in and bring warmth in with her, in the form of sound.


2. Healing Environments:

Incorporating art into healthcare environments, including waiting rooms, corridors, and patient rooms, can create a more pleasant and calming atmosphere. Visual art, including paintings, photographs, and sculptures, can contribute to reducing anxiety, enhancing patient comfort, and improving the overall healing experience.

When I worked in a practice in Pearl River, years back (before I made the big decision to leave clinical medicine behind), I took time to choose artwork for the walls of the office. The patient experience, I felt, was super important in the healing process, and I had a say in how those patients felt.


3. Medical Education:

Art can play a role in medical education by providing a unique perspective on human anatomy, physiology, and pathology. Medical illustrations, sculptures, and other visual representations can help students and healthcare professionals understand complex medical concepts in a more accessible and memorable way.

Many social media accounts revolve around this notion. They make comedic reels, for example, that help us remember medical concepts, help us memorize mnemonics, and get us motivated to take that next test. Quite cool.


4. Narrative Medicine:

Art can be used as a means of storytelling and self-expression, enabling patients and healthcare professionals to communicate and reflect on their experiences. Through mediums such as creative writing, poetry, or visual art, individuals can express their thoughts, emotions, and personal narratives related to illness, recovery, and the healthcare journey.

I published my own “art” just a few months back –  a co-curated compilation of stories from 30+ female physician authors, who decided to share their stories with the world. What We Bring to the Practice of Medicine was born.


5. Empathy and Communication:

Engaging with art can enhance empathy and communication skills in healthcare professionals. Art-based activities or experiences can foster a deeper understanding of patients’ perspectives, emotions, and experiences, enabling healthcare providers to provide more patient-centered care.

Man, is this powerful. Just take a look at the social media Facebook groups in existence today, with behind the scenes discussions about how we can make medicine better, where to get a publisher to notice yo, or even how to fix your sink. Doctors are communicating, we’re exchanging ideas and information, and we’re growing because of it.


6. Stress Reduction for Healthcare Professionals:

Art-based activities can serve as a form of self-care and stress reduction for healthcare professionals. Creating art or participating in art workshops can provide an outlet for personal expression, relaxation, and reflection, helping to mitigate burnout and promote well-being.

So many doctors have thrown summits together, for example, where colleagues can rest and relax, while they also learn. It’s been quite interesting to watch it all unfold.


7. Community Engagement and Advocacy:

Art can be used as a platform for community engagement and health advocacy. Art exhibitions, performances, and public art installations centered around healthcare issues can raise awareness, stimulate dialogue, and promote positive health behaviors within communities.

Just look at SoMeDocs, the healthcare innovation platform that aims to highlight the individual doctors who are running the healthcare wheel. In it, you can find articles, directories, and lectures that represent so much of what we’re advocating for. It’s quite inspiring.


So there you have it.

Integrating art into medicine, I conclude, acknowledges the holistic nature of healthcare, and further has the power to positively amplify the emotional, psychological, and social dimensions of patient care.

By leveraging the power of art, healthcare professionals can enhance the patient experience, support healing, improve communication, and foster a more compassionate and humanistic approach to medicine.

Is There a Role for Art in Medicine?

I got a nice surprise in the mail - a package containing a new book about medicine - that made me think about the connection between art and medicine.


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