MSU College of Medicine Partners with FIA, Creates “The Art of Observation” Workshop to Facilitate Patient Treatment

FLINT, MI — Every patient who is served in healthcare is unique with their own background, personal experiences and insights.

As society continues to evolve and change, healthcare providers challenge themselves to find better and more insightful ways to care for the wide range of patients seen in the medical field.

Neej Patel is a third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Medicine in downtown Flint.

Patel studied sociology for her undergrad at St. Louis University. It was at this time that he developed for the first time a workshop that combines the understanding and observation of works of art with a better understanding of the human.

MSU’s College of Medicine partnered with the Flint Institute of Arts and developed “The Art of Observation Workshop.”

The goal of the workshop is to help healthcare professionals develop the ability to glean nuance when talking to patients in the medical field by practicing their observation skills while looking at specific works of art.

“I like to bring that essence into the art of medicine all the time, and I feel like there’s so much overlap here that people really connect the two,” Patel said. “The term art of medicine is quite broad. Medicine is a field based on scientific evidence.

“However, there are a lot of gray areas in medicine because humans come in all different sizes, shapes, personalities, and characters. I think that’s where art fills medicine.

The workshop started in a classroom inside the FIA ​​on Sunday 13 March.

Samples of artwork were shown to medical students and then discussed with a group leader.

The intention of the class was to learn how to really observe, understand and discuss works of art.

“We’re going to use visual thinking strategies,” Patel said. “It’s a method used to understand any work of art and then apply it in a medical sense.”

Once the students learned the essence of VTS, the group walked around the museum, observed and discussed specifically chosen works of art.

The five different artworks that have been chosen represent not only the emotions in humans, but also the circumstances from which the individual comes.

“With this VTS, we can then learn how to use it to help diagnose patients in the medical field and help us see what ailments they are susceptible to right now or what we can do as providers to take care for that individual in a way that is unique to them,” Patel said.

The workshop had three main objectives:

-To pick up nuances and observations that might really be missed when first observing something and being able to sit quietly and digest what is happening

-Self-reflection, discovering why one might think a certain way, and identifying personal biases and experiences that impact how a work of art is perceived and perhaps how a patient is perceived

-Learn to work in a group and be able to create a safe space where opinions and ideas can be shared

Of the partnership with MSU, Monique Desormeau, curator of education at the Flint Institute of Arts, said the Flint area is “home to creators of all ages and backgrounds, and we consider our role at FIA as a central hub and gathering space for lifelong learning.

“Working with medical students from Michigan State University College of Medicine to show how our collection and space can develop their skills as medical professionals is a great example of how art meaningfully engages in all aspects of life,” she added.

Patel said he hopes the workshop will be a recurring educational program that can continue to unite healthcare professionals with the community in a deeper and more intuitive way.

“I would like to try to make it a series and focus on different aspects of watching,” Patel said. “Things like compassion, empathy and healing hands. I think these are all good themes that come out of looking at artwork.

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