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Medical students learn about art making to develop their medical observation skills. 

Partner Organization: Area515 Makerspace, Des Moines University Medical Humanities Society

Medical students have notoriously difficult course loads. After all, they essentially have to know everything about how the human body works from gross anatomy to tiny cellular interactions. But science isn't everything when it comes to the art of medicine. Empathy, communication, creative problem solving, and visual spatial reasoning are all examples of skills that can help medical students be better doctors that aren't covered in typical science courses. The Medical Humanities Society at Des Moines University aims to build these skills and engage in experiences and discussions around subjects which aren't covered or emphasized in the core curriculum. 

Research tells us that participating in art experiences can improve medical student's observational skills and that art training could help medical students become better clinical observers

I worked with the president of the DMU Medical Humanities Society, Dr. Sarah Werning; professor and gross anatomy instructor at DMU, Dr. Gary Hoff; Cardiologist, recently retired professor at DMU, and fine artist, and Area 515 Makerspace to develop a SciArt workshop for medical students. 



Area 515 Makerspace provided a creative space for the SciArt workshop to take place in and introduced medical students to 3D printed anatomical models.


Dr. Hoff shares his figure drawing portfolio with students and discusses how sketching and art-making are relevant to medical students. 


An example of one medical student's sketches.


Dr. Werning provided teaching specimens reserved for medical outreach and engagement and facilitated conversations and hands-on interactions with the organs for the students.


Dr. Hoff guided the students through some warm-up sketching activities to lower anxieties around art-making and drawing. Many of the students did not consider themselves to be creative or artistic.


The SciArt Workshop culminated in a reflection discussion during which medical students shared their observations, successes, and how their understandings of anatomical structures changed.


Some of the students had not yet interacted with teaching specimens and preserved anatomy. Here a student holds a brain for the first time. 


After warm up drawing activities, students settled into longer observations and sketches. Some students sketched the preserved specimens and others sketched the 3D printed anatomical models. 

Thank you to the individuals who have donated their bodies to benefit the education of future medical professionals.

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