How fine art can make better doctors is topic of inaugural episode of Yale netcast series

An innovative workshop at the Yale Center for British Art designed to improve the observational skills of medical students is the focus of the first episode of a new series of Yale netcasts.

Titled “Doctor, Doctor: Conversations About Medicine,” the occasional series will explore topics of interest to physicians and their patients. The series is produced by the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs at the Yale School of Medicine.

“Doctor, Doctor” seeks “to bring together physicians from different backgrounds across disciplines, generations, and geography to encourage conversations that shed new light on critical areas of medicine,” said Tiffany Penn from the Office of Alumni Communications. The intended audience, she says, is “Yale School of Medicine alumni and anyone interested in current topics in science and medicine.”

In the first episode, “The Art of Noticing,” School of Medicine alumni Dr. Jacqueline Dolev ’01 M.D. and Dr. Irwin M. Braverman ’55 M.D. explain how trips to a museum improved students’ powers of observation. Braverman, professor emeritus of dermatology, is the co-creator of the Workshop on Observational Skills, which has been offered at the School of Medicine since the late 1990s. Dolev, a practicing dermatologist in San Francisco and one of the first students in the course, was impressed enough by the experience to make the program the subject of her medical school thesis.

In the netcast, Dolev relates how the initial batch of students believed the workshop, in which participants study paintings and then discuss what may be taking place based on their observations, would be fun but were dubious about its effectiveness. As an artist herself, Dolev felt “intuitively that it was going to work” and that “it could be proven quantitatively.” She completed a two-year study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that demonstrated the workshop resulted in a 20% improvement in observational skills in participants.

The workshop is now a required part of the first-year curriculum at the Yale School of Medicine. In the past 15 years, similar programs have been offered at more than two dozen U.S. medical schools and colleges in London, Dublin, and Taiwan, as well as at the New York Police Department and Scotland Yard. The program has become so successful, Braverman jokes in the netcast, that “if we could monetize this franchise, we could all retire.”

Several more episodes of the series are planned for 2016, says Penn. Although the netcasts will primarily feature alumni of the School of Medicine, some “will also include others with a connection to Yale or a strong connection to the topic at hand,” she added.

“With more than 6,000 living alumni — a great many of them leaders in medicine — Yale School of Medicine has an exceptional roster of potential alumni guests,” she said.

The netcast is available free of charge on iTunes.