The visual art as a learning tool in medical education

  • Vincenza Ferrara Sapienza University of Rome
  • Sara De Santis Sapienza University - Department of Public Health, Rome, Italy
  • Francesca Manicone Sapienza University of Rome
  • Alessandro Martinino Sapienza University of Rome
  • Fabrizio Consorti Department of Surgical Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy
Keywords: burnout, communication, critical thinking, medical education, Visual Thinking Strategies


The literature has identified promising findings regarding the application of methodology using visual art to develop the cognitive skill of observation and description to enhance critical thinking among medical students. This longitudinal controlled quasi-experimental study aims to demonstrate that Visual Thinking Strategies method and other art activities are effective in improving and maintaining the ability to observe, describe and critically interpret artistic or medical images in undergraduate medical students. The course of  art and medicine was given at the 3rd, 4th, and 5th year at the same cohort of students within the curriculum of Medicine and Surgery of Sapienza University of Rome and a baseline pre-post assessment was performed using a validated rubric to score a written test on observation and interpretation of paintings and clinical images. All the students increased their score from pre to post-test in the 3rd year, but only the students attending the electives during the 4th and 5th year maintained their ability to observe, describe and critically interpret. Our findings suggest that The Visual Thinking Strategies, as arts-based learning activities, are an effective methodology to increase the professional abilities of medical students but if our findings are coherent with what is already known about the effectiveness of the observation of fine arts to increase clinical visual skills but it  needs persistence of these activities. Therefore they should be added to medical curricula as a mandatory component.