Understanding the role of the art museum in teaching clinical-level medical students

Heather J. Kagan, Margot Kelly-Hedrick, Elizabeth Benskin, Suzy Wolffe, Melissa Suchanek, Margaret S. Chisolm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction. The role of the visual arts in medical education has been understudied, especially with regard to program evaluation and learner assessment of complex competencies such as professional identity, team building, and tolerance for ambiguity. We designed a study to explore how an integrative art museum-based program might benefit 3rd and 4th year medical students. Methods. We piloted 6 sessions with 18 participants. Evaluation methods included post-session surveys and semi-structured focus groups, which we qualitatively analyzed using an open-coding method. Results. Seven themes emerged from the analysis related to the overarching realms of ‘form’ and ‘function.’ ‘Form’ themes included structural elements of the sessions that enabled engagement: (1) group format, (2) methods (e.g., discussion prompts, activities), (3) setting (e.g., physical space of the museum, temporal space), and (4) objects (e.g., paintings, sculptures). ‘Function’ themes included the personal and professional value and meaning derived from the sessions: (1) appreciation of others, (2) critical skills, and (3) personal inquiry. Discussion. Our results expand what is known about the role of the visual arts in medical education by suggesting that the visual arts may facilitate clinically relevant learning across a range of competencies via specific formal aspects (group format, method, setting, objects) of art museum-based pedagogical methods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2010513
JournalMedical education online
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Arts and humanities
  • art museum
  • clinical learners
  • medical students
  • professional identity formation
  • undergraduate medical education
  • visual arts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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