Art and Medicine: from anatomic studies to Visual Thinking Strategies

  • Vincenza Ferrara
  • Sara De Santis
  • Claudia Staffoli
Keywords: Medical humanities, art, Visual Thinking Strategies


Over the centuries the collaboration between artists and doctors and the relationship between art and medicine disciplines have been documented. Since the '60s the discipline of medical humanities has been developed in order to enrich the studies in medical sciences with the humanities. In the belief that medicine is more than just a set of knowledge and technical skills, medical educators have considered important to include the humanities as art, literature, philosophy, ethics, history, in the curriculum of training a good doctor. Despite there are examples of previous use of art as part of the curricula of medicine as a tool to develop the cognitive skills of observation and description, there is a general consensus that the semiotic competence starts from a correct and deep observation, "clinical eye", using senses to diagnose disease. It can talk about "Visual Thinking Strategy" (VTS) in this context. The VTS provides a way to enable the observation of the work of art, the process of analysis, comparison and discussion with others that allows the medical student to acquire a method to be applied also in clinical activity, improving skills in patient examination, by implementing the problem solving and critical thinking, getting used to teamwork, stimulating empathy toward patient and respect for others (whether patient or colleague). The observation practice should be key thing for medical training and this theory can be an aid to improve clinical skills. A trial of VTS for medicine students connected to Semiotic Course in collaboration with the Galleria Borghese in Rome during last academic year was carried out at The Degree Course in Medicine of the Faculty of Medicine and Psychology of Sapienza University.