Transformative experiences at art museums to support flourishing in medicine

Med Educ Online. 2023 Dec;28(1):2202914. doi: 10.1080/10872981.2023.2202914.


Purpose: We implemented and evaluated a hybrid 4-week arts-based elective for clinical medical students to support flourishing.

Materials and methods: Five students participated in early 2022. Twelve sessions occurred in-person at art museums and other cultural centers, and five occurred online. Sessions incorporated varied arts-based learning activities, including Visual Thinking Strategies, a jazz seminar, and a mask-making workshop. We evaluated the course via weekly reflective essays, interviews 6 weeks after the course, and pre-post surveys that included four scales with clinical relevance: capacity for wonder (CfW), tolerance for ambiguity (TFA), interpersonal reactivity index, and openness to diversity.

Results: Qualitatively, the course helped learners: 1) reconnect with individual characteristics and interests that had been neglected during medical education; 2) better appreciate others' perspectives; 3) develop identities as physicians; and 4) engage in quiet reflection, renewing their sense of purpose. Quantitatively, pre-post mean totals increased for the CfW (32.0 [SD 6.8] vs 44.0 [SD 5.7], p=.006) and TFA scales (16.4 [SD 5.2] vs 24.2 [SD 6.9], p=.033).

Conclusions: This elective facilitated learners' connecting with themselves, others, and their profession with improvement in clinically-relevant measures. This provides further evidence that arts-based education can foster professional identity formation and be transformative for students.

Keywords: Professional identity formation; arts and humanities; flourishing; visual art; wellness.

MeSH terms

  • Art*
  • Curriculum
  • Education, Medical*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Museums
  • Students, Medical*

Grants and funding

The work was supported by the The Paul McHugh Program for Human Flourishing.