According to the editor’s introduction, this collection is based on the AMSA (American Medical Student Association) assertion that the physician must be a humanist, a communicator and an advocate as well as a scientist.  To support these and related commitments, it offers essays that demonstrate how and under what circumstances the introduction of creative arts into the lives of professional care providers and their patients and families may be achieved.  Included in some essays are general themes, while in others there are very detailed descriptions of methodology. Others utilize more standard research designs and outcomes.

What creative arts are included in the discussions?  Visual arts, drama, music, and story-telling stand out in terms of potential and, in some cases, already demonstrated applicability to a medical practice.  Some of the essays propose art forms that can be translated into a useful frame for health practitioners, artists and/or patients and their families.

Some essays include assessment of research projects or various designs of methodologies for using creative art in the medial professional education environment.  Others rely on personal experiences using the arts in the learning and teaching of skills such as communication with peers, patients, family and friends.

The volume is divided into four sections.  The first cluster of essays considers using the arts to illustrate empathy in encounters among providers and recipients of health care services.  This is demonstrated in a variety of settings as disparate as end-of-life situations and dental training programs.

The second section includes examples of drama, music and drawing as part of caring for caregivers.  Through group settings and peer support, art serves as a stress reducer for those whose work involves the highly emotional situations health professionals often encounter.

Section three explains and demonstrates the narrative reflective process, in which experiences and stories are shared among those persons involved as patients, family members and caregivers.  The special situation of interviews in pediatrics is given attention in one portion of this section.

The final section addresses the question of using art to explore troublesome issues that demand change or special attention.  Included are ethical dilemmas and the need for health professions to build bridges to the community at large.


The concept of introducing certain arts into the health fields is not new.  Painting as therapy, readers’ theatre and story telling, for example, have long histories in the teaching of the soul of health—empathy. In this volume, the range of topics is a bit overwhelming for a reader trying to focus on pedagogy in a vast and wide-ranging arena.  The contributors come from a mixture of backgrounds with vocabularies that cut across a challenging array of educational approaches.  

What qualifies as creative art?  If the definition is clear and agreed upon by artists, health professionals and patients and their advocates, who is ultimately responsible for establishing a “curriculum” and appropriate application of same?  Or is such definition completely random and dependent upon the preference of any artist, health care provider or patient who chooses to use creative art as a part of the education for and the practice of healing?

The essays here are interesting, and many are exploring new ideas, but it would be useful to see more participants in each exploration as well as careful analyses of predefined outcome measures in order to make clear assertions about the value of any particular creative art form in humanizing medicine.  Some of the projects described have very few participants, hardly sufficient evidence to advocate their incorporation into curriculum as a formalized finalized strategy, but rather suggestive as potential for long-term value.

This publication calls attention to a wide range of situations in which art forms might be educational or therapeutically helpful.  There are clues to possible uses of a variety of art forms explored in these essays. Creative Arts in Humane Medicine may serve an important role in stimulating further interest and research in this field. 


Brush Education Inc.

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Cheryl L. McClean

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