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Art of Observation

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Can studying a painting or observing a piece of artwork help medical students become better doctors?

FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Can studying a painting or observing a piece of artwork help medical students become better doctors?

That's the goal of an exercise where a group of Flint college students toured the art museum, sharpening their observations skills, preparing to treat their patients in the future.

At first glance a group of college students huddled around a painting at the Flint Institute of Arts dissecting it's deeper meaning is nothing out of the ordinary.

What do you see?

What's happening in the picture?

Questions that would usually come from students studying art.

After listening closely, these are actually medical students from Michigan State University's Flint campus.

 "Humans come in all different sizes, shapes, and personalities and characters. And I think that's kind of where the art fills into medicine," said Neej Patel, MSU college of medicine student. 

And that is where this work shop, The Art of Observation, comes into play.

Giving these Spartans an artful approach to the medical field, by helping them sharpen their critical observation skills.

"In medicine, you know, we have so much information, you know, at our fingertips, especially with all the new technologies, discoveries, you know, we have labs, we have slides to review. We have you know, like he said the chart as well and has all sorts of information but we don't have is the real person in front of us. And I think that's really where the art of observation or the art of medicine really plays in here," said Patel.

Third year medical student Neej Patel has a background in art. He participated in a similar session as an undergrad and after seeing the benefits, he organized the workshop for his classmates.

"We walk into a room and to that individual, we were really strangers, you know and to gleam and to like, get really personal and really intimate with people's lives and their health is really, really, you know something that we take seriously, but it's something that it takes a lot of practice to really understand, aside from what's really written," he said. 

The session focuses on several pieces of art where the students quietly study and then dissect each detail.

With no right or wrong answers.

"Picking up on observations that you know, truly you might not have, you know, when you first looked at something, when you just sit in silence and stare and you were able to digest a little bit or you hear you know, your partner's thoughts as well or a person around you," said Patel. 

Skills that will help these future medical professionals go beyond the chart with their patients and could even help them catch potentially life saving details.

"In a profession like medicine or any kind of a healthcare field. Any field really that deals with people, I think is very important because you get to glean a little bit more about who they are, where they come from, and you know, help them as best as you can," he said. 

Patel said that he hopes to continue having more workshops like this for MSU medical students.

In fact, some colleges and universities have made it part of their curriculum.

It was discovered that there are police departments that also use this technique of studying art for their officers and detectives as well.

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