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Ophthalmology. 2017 Aug 3. pii: S0161-6420(17)31708-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2017.06.031. [Epub ahead of print]

A Randomized Controlled Study of Art Observation Training to Improve Medical Student Ophthalmology Skills.

Author information

1
Department of Ophthalmology, Scheie Eye Institute, Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
2
Department of Ophthalmology, Scheie Eye Institute, Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Division of Ophthalmology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
3
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
4
Department of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
5
Department of Medicine, Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
6
Department of Ophthalmology, Scheie Eye Institute, Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Division of Ophthalmology, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Electronic address: binenbaum@email.chop.edu.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Observation and description are critical to the practice of medicine, and to ophthalmology in particular. However, medical education does not provide explicit training in these areas, and medical students are often criticized for deficiencies in these skills. We sought to evaluate the effects of formal observation training in the visual arts on the general and ophthalmologic observational skills of medical students.

DESIGN:

Randomized, single-masked, controlled trial.

PARTICIPANTS:

Thirty-six first-year medical students, randomized 1:1 into art-training and control groups.

METHODS:

Students in the art-training group were taught by professional art educators at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, during 6 custom-designed, 1.5-hour art observation sessions over a 3-month period. All subjects completed pre- and posttesting, in which they described works of art, retinal pathology images, and external photographs of eye diseases.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Grading of written descriptions for observational and descriptive abilities by reviewers using an a priori rubric and masked to group assignment and pretesting/posttesting status.

RESULTS:

Observational skills, as measured by description testing, improved significantly in the training group (mean change +19.1 points) compared with the control group (mean change -13.5 points), P = 0.001. There were significant improvements in the training vs. control group for each of the test subscores. In a poststudy questionnaire, students reported applying the skills they learned in the museum in clinically meaningful ways at medical school.

CONCLUSIONS:

Art observation training for first-year medical students can improve clinical ophthalmology observational skills. Principles from the field of visual arts, which is reputed to excel in teaching observation and descriptive abilities, can be successfully applied to medical training. Further studies can examine the impact of such training on clinical care.

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