Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 431–445 | Cite as

What is the Role of the Arts in Medical Education and Patient Care? A Survey-based Qualitative Study

  • Susan E. PoriesEmail author
  • Sorbarikor Piawah
  • Gregory A. Abel
  • Samyukta Mullangi
  • Jennifer Doyle
  • Joel T. Katz


To inform medical education reform efforts, we systematically collected information on the level of arts and humanities engagement in our medical school community. Attitudes regarding incorporating arts and humanities-based teaching methods into medical education and patient care were also assessed. An IRB-approved survey was electronically distributed to all faculty, residents, fellows, and students at our medical school. Questions focused on personal practice of the arts and/or humanities, as well as perceptions of, and experience with formally incorporating these into medical teaching. Of 13,512 community members surveyed, 2,775 responded (21% overall response rate). A majority of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that medical education and patient care could be "enhanced" by the integration of the arts (67% and 74% respectively). There was enthusiastic support for the creation of a formal program in the arts at our medical school (72 %). Integration of the arts into medical education may have a role in improving the quality of medical training and would likely be well received by teachers and learners.


Arts Humanities Medical education Patient care 



Linda Grover and Linda Kruse provided invaluable assistance with the IRB and survey. Encouragement and useful critiques of the survey design were provided by Drs. Ron Arky, Rafael Campo, Elizabeth Gaufberg, David S. Jones, Suzanne Koven, Amy Ship, Andrea Wershof Schwartz, and Lisa Wong.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical approval

“All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.”

Our study was approved by the Harvard University Faculty of Medicine committee on Human Studies. The CHS study number was M22408-101. Review date July 20, 2012. The status was exempt based on 45 CFR 46.101 (b) (2).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SurgeryMount Auburn HospitalCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer InstituteBostonUSA
  4. 4.Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  5. 5.Department of SurgeryMassachusetts General HospitalBostonUSA

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