Harvard Medical School adds arts education

Boston-based Harvard Medical School is joining the ranks of a growing number of medical schools adding arts and humanities to the medical education experience, according to The Boston Globe and Stat.

Medical schools have traditionally included ethics and literature, but many are now widening this to include sociology, music and art, according to the report. Universities like Hanover, N.H.-based Dartmouth, Montreal-based McGill and University of Southern California in Los Angeles are similarly working to boost the arts in their medical programs, according to the report.

These schools aren't trying to produce artistic talent, rather they aim to teach physicians how to better understand the human experience. According to the report, studies have shown students' empathy actually declines as they progress through medical school, though empathy can drive improved clinical outcomes.

For now, Harvard's Arts and Humanities Initiative offers students optional arts events — such as dramatic readings of plays, open-mic nights and arts-themed field trips — rather than required classes. It expands on existing efforts at the school, such as its literary magazine.

A former Harvard medical student who had participated in a dramatic reading described the benefits of the arts in medical practice to The Boston Globe as "a way to be there for the patient, in a way you wouldn't have been there before."

Read the full report here.

This article was updated at 2:06 p.m. CT. 

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