Learning to look: developing clinical observational skills at an art museum

Med Educ. 2001 Dec;35(12):1157-61. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2001.01088.x.


Context: Clinical diagnosis involves the observation, description, and interpretation of visual information. These skills are also the special province of the visual arts. We describe an educational collaboration between a medical school and an art museum, designed for the purpose of developing student skills in observation, description, and interpretation.

Objectives: In the programme, medical students first examine painted portraits, under the tutelage of art educators and medical school faculty. Then, the students examine photographs of patients' faces and apply the same skills.

Conclusion: This programme, well-received by students and faculty, appeared to help the students not only in improving their empirical skills in observation, but also in developing increased awareness of emotional and character expression in the human face.

MeSH terms

  • Art*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Humans
  • Museums
  • Observation / methods
  • Visual Perception