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Look …. And you will see. Kumagai A. Perspective: Acts of Interpretation: A Philosophical Approach to Using Creative Arts in Medical Education. Academic Medicine 2012; 87(8):1138-1144.


Reviewed by Jennifer Koestler

What is the focus of this paper?
Dr. Kumagai illustrates how a program that incorporates creative arts into a medical school curriculum can foster both humanism and reflective practice among medical students. The exemplar provided is a decade-old program at the University of Michigan Medical School called the Family Centered Experience (FCE). This program pairs first and second year medical students with a cadre of patient volunteers with chronic illness. Student interviews with patients are the focus of reflective exercises with faculty and the subjects of creative representations of these narratives (acts of interpretation).

What are examples of "Acts of Interpretation?"
"Acts of Interpretation" are the creative art forms produced by students based on their experiences with patients and include visual art (painting/ sculpture/ photography), literature (poetry/ short stories), film, theater, music, and dance.

What are the implications of "Acts of Interpretation" on training medical students and the practice of medicine?
The implications and powerful nature of this assignment lies in the active learning that occurs during the interview process between student and patient, the subsequent reflection that occurs individually and through mentored group work after the patient interview, and finally in the physical development of artwork that provides a both a tactile experience and avenue for expression for students.

Creative art can bridge the identities of the student and patient and allow interpretation of the patient's lived experience with illness. It is suggested that this process can foster transformative humanistic practice not otherwise attained by other traditional, less engaging, methods of teaching.

Editor's note: This beautifully written piece, with great examples of students' work, caused me to pause and consider what we are trying to accomplish with our limited time in undergraduate education. For those interested in incorporating the arts into their own school's education, this article provides a succinct summary of the relevant literature and a compelling argument of its benefits (SLB).

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