Background: Paintings have been used in Medical Humanities modules in Nepal at Manipal College of Medical Sciences and KIST Medical College. Detailed participant feedback about the paintings used, the activities carried out, problems with using paintings and the role of paintings in future modules has not been previously done. Hence the present study was carried out.
Methods: The present module for first year medical students was conducted from February to August 2010 at KIST Medical College, Nepal. Paintings used were by Western artists and obtained from the Literature, Arts and Medicine database. The activities undertaken by the students include answering the questions 'What do you see' and 'What do you feel' about the painting, creating a story of 100 words about the scene depicted, and interpreting the painting using role plays and poems/songs. Feedback was not obtained about the last two activities. In August 2010 we obtained detailed feedback about the paintings used.
Results: Seventy-eight of the 100 students (78%) participated. Thirty-four students (43.6%) were male. The most common overall comments about the use of paintings were "they helped me feel what I saw" (12 respondents), "enjoyed the sessions" (12 respondents), "some paintings were hard to interpret" (10 respondents) and "were in tune with module objectives" (10 respondents). Forty-eight (61.5%) felt the use of western paintings was appropriate. Suggestions to make annotations about paintings more useful were to make them shorter and more precise, simplify the language and properly introduce the artist. Forty-one students (52.6%) had difficulty with the exercise 'what do you feel'. Seventy-four students (94.9%) wanted paintings from Nepal to be included.
Conclusions: Participant response was positive and they were satisfied with use of paintings in the module. Use of more paintings from Nepal and South Asia can be considered. Further studies may be required to understand whether use of paintings succeeded in fulfilling module objectives.