Drawing classes could help SIUH Doctors become better teachers

By: Amanda Farinacci

Art can have a positive impact on how doctors deal with their patients, according to medical professionals who took part in a study at Staten Island University Hospital. NY1's Amanda Farinacci filed the following report.

It may look like a fun art class, but to a group of surgeons and doctors at Staten Island University Hospital who are busy sketching and drawing, they are doing serious business.

First charged with drawing a replica of a mindbending picture and then told to draw a sketch of Albert Einstein however they wanted, the participating doctors are not necessarily pleased with their outcomes.

"I'm a surgeon. I'm never happy," says Dr. Nachum Katlowitz, the director of Urology.

The exercise is part of a study to find whether art can play a role in making resident doctors better teachers to their intern students and improve their relationship with their patients.

Most students fall into one of four categories of learners: those who like a lot of instruction, those who don't like much instruction at all, those who learn from pictures and those who learn from words.

Because drawing forces a teacher to touch upon all of those learning styles, study organizer Lorraine Fugazzi says it is the perfect medium for her experiment.

For the study, the participants are given a ruler, pencil and paper and some basic instructions and asked to draw the photograph of Einstein, which proves harder to do than originally thought.

"Part of it was discomfort, because I'm not an artist and I don't really love drawing," says Dr. Jonathan Scheiner, a radiologist. "This was my second time on this intervention and sometimes it felt stilted because it felt confining to me."

It is those feelings of anxiety and discomfort that led Fugazzi to broaden the scope of her study to include how art can improve empathy for patients:  "We started then developing this conversation about empathy and sympathy and how do you think they feel? Do you think they feel like this, the way you just felt? So it's been interesting," says Fugazzi.

It has forced veteran doctors to think about how they can better understand their patients nd become better teachers for their students.

The group members will sit through another class in a year's time to see whether they have retained any of their new skills

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