Art in Health 2015 Workshops

Over the past few weeks USFCAM hosted a series of Art in Health workshops in collaboration with USF Health. These workshops were geared towards enhancing observation skills in students in health disciplines. There have been several studies conducted by Harvard Medical School that have found success in challenging students in health to use Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). In one Harvard study, Harvard medical students were asked to take a preclinical course called Training the Eye: Improving the Art of Physical Diagnosis. In this course the medical students were introduced to VTS by arts educators who combined lectures and visual arts with physical diagnosis. The results displayed an increase in observation skills. VTS is an educational method established by Abigail Housen, a cognitive psychologist, and Philip Yenawine, an art educator.[1] This method has not only been used in museums but in school environments through art and music as a way to increase reasoning, imagination, and interpretation.[2]

Megan_Group 006 medMegan Voeller, Associate Curator at USFCAM and Art in Health Program Director, leads a group in Visual Thinking Strategies

When implementing these skills into the healthcare environment, students are more likely to spend more time on the “patient’s image” and catch mistakes.[1] An article called Art Rounds: Teaching Interprofessional Students Visual Thinking Strategies at One School by Craig M. Klugman, Jennifer Peel, and Diana Beckmann-Mendez explains, “Abraham Verghese speaks about a turn away from the physical patient to the point where physicians often talk to the patients while filling out forms on the computer. He says that health care providers treat results and not patients.”[1]

When attending the museum workshop on September 19th I was able to experience VTS firsthand at USFCAM. The workshop was introduced by Megan Voeller, Associate Curator at USFCAM, who facilitated the discussion and selected images to prompt our critical observation. As Voeller led our discussion of an art piece with three questions, I found myself analyzing careful details within each image and considering the views of my group members around me. As a group we deconstructed the visual image from lighting, emotion, objects, and reflection. The group discussions were deeply collaborative and allowed us to pull from each other’s observations.

During the workshop three students were asked to facilitate a VTS discussion. As one of the volunteers I learned to use guiding questions to induce discussion. In reflection of my VTS instruction I was given constructive feedback and noted how difficult it was to remain neutral as a facilitator. During the second half of our exercise we broke into groups and were allowed to explore the USF campus with the creative task of capturing our own image. After returning to the museum we applied VTS to our own visual images. Overall the group responded well to the workshop. They commented on how they had an interest in exploring art outside of science and were happy to find a place that combined the two disciplines.

Movement workshop 07 medMerry Lynn Morris, USF Dance Program Faculty and Art in Health Program Instructor

In my second workshop, Merry Lynn Morris, MFA, PhD candidate, and faculty in the USF Dance Program, facilitated a Body and Movement focused training. In this program a group of students participated in engaging movement exercises, implemented to heighten body awareness and improve observation skills. Morris introduced activities to help students recognize the power of language and movement. We also participated in “BrainDance,” a series of exercises developed by Anne Green Gilbert, which is a body and brain warm-up, tracking eight developmental movement patterns we experience in the first year of life.[3] In collaboration with the Artistic Director Merry Lynn Morris, VSA Florida, and USF hosted A New Definition of Dance: An International Mixed Ability Showcase and Educational Initiative from October 14 to 17.

This is USF’s 4th year conducting Art in Health workshops. Those who attend the four workshops are given a certificate of completion. You can learn more about Art in Health here and contact Art in Health staff here.

Jiesha Stephens
English Undergraduate
USFCAM Intern Writer


[1] Klugman M. Craig, Peel Jennifer, and Mendez-Beckmann Diana. “Art Rounds: Teaching Interprofessional Students Visual Thinking Strategies at One School.” Art and Medical Education. 86. (2011): 1266-1271. Print.
[2] Hornbacher Judy.” Research Review.”Teaching Artist Journal. 7(2) (2009): 123-130. Print.
[3] “BrainDance.” Creative Dance Center. Web. 31 Oct. 2015

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