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In late January, about 20 first-year Dell Medical students met in a gallery at the university’s Blanton Museum of Art for a two-hour lesson on empathetic communication, the final session in a three-part program. In addition to focusing on ways that doctors treat their patients through empathy, the program aimed to develop observation skills and address how doctors treat themselves, through a session on mindfulness and self-care.

“One of the things that we’re struggling with in medicine right now is the immense level of burnout,” said Dr. Jonathan MacClements, an assistant dean at Dell and a student mentor. “The reason why we go into medicine is forgotten. We’ve just become so focused on the day-to-day activities that the human side is sometimes lost. I’m hoping this will help us refind and re-identify within ourselves what made medicine such a special profession.”

The students’ principal guide for the program was Ray Williams, the museum’s director of education and a veteran of the emerging practice of using art as medicine of sorts for medical professionals, pioneered by Columbia and Yale. Before coming to the Blanton in 2012, Mr. Williams worked at the Harvard Art Museums, where he partnered with Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston to foster teamwork. Mr. Williams, who developed the curriculum for Dell, likens interpreting art to interpreting a patient.

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Image: By Zereshk – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3541361

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