Harvard Medical School: Prescribing Art To Understand Suffering And Compassion


Arts and STEM can never exist on the same plane, at least that's the idea that has been instilled in our minds. However, the Harvard Medical School has created a course that melds the two leading to a deeper understanding of life, most especially of suffering and compassion.

The Harvard Medical School (HMS) introduced its Wintersession course called "Creativity, Medicine and the Arts." Despite the course name, it is open and attended by various undergraduates from HMS, Harvard Law School, the Graduate School of Education, and the Harvard Business School.

The workshops, led by Lisa Wong, a pediatrician and also the co-director of the Arts and Humanities Initiative at HMS, allows participants to re-think the idea that studying science doesn't mean giving up the arts. The workshops aim to reassure students that they can embrace both arts and science.

Also a professional violinist, Wong said that arts and science is just part of one continuum. She then added that where doctors help their patients see the beauty of life, artists find ways to express pain and suffering.

Wong recalled her own experience which involved Michelangelo's Pieta. She said she didn't want to look at the sculpture at first because it was so jarring. However, she told a group of participants, overcoming the feeling of revulsion at the sight of suffering allows physicians to understand and then care for their patients.

Doguz Mordeniz, an engineering student from Turkey and was part of the movement workshop called ""Healing Narrative Through Movement," said that it showed him that every feeling can be expressed through movement.

Meanwhile, at the Harvard Arts Museum, HMS assistant professor of pediatrics Elizabeth Rider and museum director Odo, told the story behind Doris Salcedo's "A Flor de Piel." He said that Salcedo painted it in memory of a nurse who was tortured in Colombia allowing students to look at the work of art on a different lens.

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