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Yale Medical Students Use Artwork To Sharpen Diagnostic Skills; Innovative Teaching Method Aims To Improve Observation Of Patients

NEW HAVEN, Conn., Feb. 23, 1998-Medical training has taken an artistic turn for some students at Yale University School of Medicine. Irwin M. Braverman, M.D., professor of dermatology and in the Cancer Center at Yale, has introduced students to a method of learning that takes them out of the traditional classroom and into the museum.

In a tutorial called the British Museum Project, Dr. Braverman instructs students to observe pre-selected paintings at the Yale Center for British Art, and make judgments about how thoughts and feelings are communicated visually. His goal is to train students to become more careful observers by learning to decode an object's meaning and extract information through observation. According to Dr. Braverman, with heightened observation skills, physicians can ask the questions necessary to make correct diagnoses without relying too much on costly blood tests and x-rays.

"Doctors have to be taught to pick up on details that are often overlooked," says Dr. Braverman. "It is through these details that they can come up with better diagnosis of patients. This makes them better doctors and benefits the patient."

Dr. Braverman came up with the teaching method last November while thinking of ways to get his dermatology residents to sharpen their observational skills. He teamed up with Linda Friedlaender, curator of education at the Yale Center for British Art, to develop a tutorial that used highly detailed original works of art. Students are assigned a painting and given time to observe and study it "like a rash that has been framed." In turn, each student describes the work based solely on what he or she sees. They learn from group discussions, reactions and observations.

According to Dr. Braverman, Mrs. Friedlaender had independently been thinking about the same kind of observational exercise for residents in the orthopaedics and rehabilitation department,
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Contact: Karen Peart or Helaine Patterson
karen.peart@yale.edu
203 785-5824
Yale University School of Medicine
23-Feb-1998


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