Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Art of Observation-E-Veritas, 6/29/09

A group of Miller School physical therapy doctoral students spends a day at UM’s Lowe Art Museum, contemplating and interpreting artwork to sharpen their observational skills and become better diagnosticians
Patrick Manrique and 11 of his classmates stood in front of the sculpture of a squatting Miami Dolphins football player and stared at its lifelike features.

Art discussion: Department of Physical Therapy students, including Christen Tucker, right, listen to Lowe Art Museum docent Sara DeTchon during a recent workshop designed to sharpen their observation skills.
After looking straight into the figure’s eyes, Manrique formed an opinion and shared it with the group, explaining that the football player was an exhausted athlete “catching a quick break in the heat of battle.”
Some of his classmates, however, had a different opinion. To them, the player’s posture and appearance suggested a dejected athlete whose team had been defeated.
Manrique and his classmates aren’t art history majors but future healers—third-year doctoral students in the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s nationally ranked physical therapy program.
Their recent one-day field trip to UM’s Lowe Art Museum—where they pondered paintings, photographs, and sculptures and then described what they were seeing and how they arrived at their impressions—was intended to improve the observational skills they will need to make accurate diagnoses.
“They weren’t there to learn about art,” says Hope Torrents, school programs coordinator at the Lowe who helped arrange the visit. “The premise is that looking and talking about artwork makes them better diagnosticians, better listeners. They have to mine artwork for details. Art is open to multiple interpretations. It’s about listening to other people’s ideas.”
Physical therapists, like physicians, have to open their minds to several possibilities just to arrive at the correct diagnosis. But sometimes they concentrate too heavily on finding the one right answer without being flexible and considering different options.
Observing and discussing art “gets them to realize there’s a lot of different things going on, and that’s the same thing with patients,” says Sherrill Hayes, professor and chair of the Department of Physical Therapy. “Are they limping? Is there a muscular or skeletal problem? We have to be very observant and have to pick up on nuances that the patient is showing us, either in their facial expressions or in something about their body. Then, it’s not only a matter of being more skilled at visual observation, but being able to state what they’re seeing.”
While the Miller School currently has no elective or required class in which students study art to improve their observational skills, Hayes has been using the technique as a module in some of her classes since 2003, showing her students PowerPoint images of paintings and sculptures and having them analyze and interpret them.
She got the idea after reading an article in her daughter’s Yale University alumni magazine about a faculty member, Irwin Braverman, who developed a class that uses art with the goal of making better physicians.
“I was intrigued,” Hayes says. “My daughter was an art history major at Yale, and she helped me identify some paintings that were very detailed as far as the story that was being told. So I started doing this with our first doctor of physical therapy class, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
The recent field trip to the Lowe was the first time Hayes had ever brought a group of her students to a museum. But she hopes the field trips will occur more often.
During their visit, the students looked at such varied art as Italian artist Leonardo Coccorante’s Port of Ostia During a Tempest, an oil-on-canvas painting that shows architectural ruins with a seascape during a storm. They also looked at some of the Lowe’s Renaissance and Baroque works, contemporary photographs, and sculptures like Duane Hanson’s Football Player, 1981, forming impressions of the works by using a technique called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), a K-5 and middle school curriculum and teaching method that develops critical thinking, communication, and visual literacy skills.
Torrents has been teaching VTS to Miami-Dade School teachers for the past seven years as part of the Lowe’s magnet schools program, and she and the museum docents also use the technique with visitors.
“It’s not about people coming in and getting lectured to,” she explains. “It’s about them finding meaning for themselves through artwork.”
But research on whether observing and interpreting art can help improve the observational skills of physicians is limited. “There are a few small studies showing improvement in diagnostic inspection skills,” says Alex Mechaber, associate dean for undergraduate medical education at the Miller School, adding, “We are exploring the creation of a master clinician elective that might incorporate instruction in these observation skills.”
Physical therapy student Manrique, though, is a believer, and hopes his experience at the Lowe will make him a better clinician. “So much of communication is nonverbal,” says the former Army officer and paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division who spent a year in Iraq. “The art of observing patients can give clinicians clues where to steer the flow of a physical examination. I believe that my patients will be appreciative of my ability to pick up on subtle clues.”
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

New York Times-Sunday magazine story on Raffa Nada

The New York Times Magazine, Sunday, June 21st. There was a wonderful story on this Spanish tennis star, Rafael Nadal. I thought it was so well written. It gave a peek into the life of this young man and also extolled the game of tennis. It's a fantastic game!


Daniel Pink's website shows a short video of this eco-friendly pizza box. I just love this country! In a time of economic downturn the wheels of invention continue to turn!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mixed Doubles Tennis

I realize that my entries have been the only entries in this blog of Daily Delights and Daily Drags in a very long time. It's lonely. But I'm happy to make contributions because...well it makes me happy. But I do welcome any and all daily delights and daily drags.

With that off my chest I have to say that playing mixed doubles tennis with my husband these last couple of weeks has been really fun. Jordi is not a tennis player but there's a 'will' there that can't be matched. He goes for every ball and has such determination even when we're losing, by a lot, he continues to fight to the bitter end. He makes me laugh! And the other couple we've been playing with are a lot of fun. I'm so happy that we have found something, which costs no money, to do together that's so much fun. Now hopefully our knees won't give out.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

New T-Shirt

I know this blog, Daily Delights and Daily Drags is supposed to be about things which give us pleasure, rather, simple things, i.e., non-material things, but I can't help myself sometimes I just have to buy a new t-shirt.  It's purple and I do love it.  I got it at Target and it cost a wopping $10.00.  But there's something about putting on a brand new article of clothing which gives me a small thrill.  Maybe it's the smell or the 'newness' of it; never been worn, feel like a new person, crisp, clean, and all of that.  So here I am wearing my brand new t-shirt, feeling kind of....brand new.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Visual Thinking Strategies

50 physical therapy students came to the Lowe Art Museum yesterday.  What a great day!  We had them for three hours, doing an overview of VTS, demonstrating and discussing the elements and had them try and connect the importance of what we do with VTS and how it relates to their own field.  They totally got it!  What a high to have 50 people enthusiastic about VTS.  Each one practiced facilitating image discussions, with their groups.  They were great.  And the professor/chair, Dr. Hayes thought it was "fantastic".  I am hoping it catches on and more schools use it.