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Arthur S. Levine, M.D.

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Students Study Art at Carnegie Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Museum

PITTSBURGH, July 12, 2007 It is a little known fact that a 19th century doctor, Giovanni Morelli, invented modern art connoisseurship by adapting the methods of comparative anatomy to create a scientific approach to art. In today's modern world of medicine, a doctors diagnosis of a patient still relies on an ability to observe, describe and interpret visual information just as it did then. Modern connoisseurship and modern medicine blend art and science in the Art and Medicine course, recently launched by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Museum.

The four-week course for first-year medical students is designed to hone visual thinking and observation skills through the study of art in the museums galleries. This new mini-elective is facilitated by educators, curators and conservators at the museums and works with a group of eight students through a series of examinations, discussions and hands-on exercises.

This unique course uses art to sharpen visual acuity skills while increasing awareness of factors that influence what we see, how we interpret it and arrive at subsequent assessments, evaluations and decisions, said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh. We are fortunate to have a partnership such as this in which the students are learning valuable implications of visual knowledge for medical practice.

Sessions at the Warhol museum explore interpretation beyond looking and, through the works of Andy Warhol, examine point of view, context and the effect of framing or presentation on analysis and practice.

Warhol said once you got Pop you never looked at a sign the same way again. Referring to the influence of the burgeoning commercialism of 1950s America on the art of its time, Warhol pointed to the power of art to engage viewers in looking anew at their world, said Jessica Grogan, curator of special projects at The Andy Warhol Museum. We hope, through these sessions, to engage students in discussions and activities that offer enriched perspectives from which to think about their practice.

Sessions at the Carnegie Museum of Art include a systematic process for approaching a work of art for the first time, determining the story it tells by what is represented and considering the compositions, materials and context that contribute to the works impact and interpretation. Time with an art conservator will lead to discussion on the ethics of when to treat a work of art, how much to do and when to stop. Also included is an approach to art from the perspective of standards and recognizing how cultural and personal standards lead to judgments that may not be universal or absolute.

A myriad of conscious and unconscious factors affect what we see, what details and nuances we observe and the conclusions we draw from visual information, said Carnegie Museum of Art Chair and Curator of Education Marilyn Russell. Exploring works of art can provide a valuable complement to medical education. Additionally, the arts are powerful links to understanding human experience and contribute to more effective doctor-patient interactions.

This partnership is an expansion of the University of Pittsburghs existing work with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History to cover the full Carnegie family. Similar collaborations have been done between the Yale Center for British Art with Yale University Medical School and the Frick Collection with Weill Cornell Medical School.

The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences include the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dental Medicine , Pharmacy, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and the Graduate School of Public Health. The schools serve as the academic partner to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Together, their combined mission is to train tomorrows health care specialists and biomedical scientists, engage in groundbreaking research that will advance understanding of the causes and treatments of disease and participate in the delivery of outstanding patient care. For fiscal year 2005, Pitt and its institutional affiliates ranked seventh nationally among educational institutions in grant support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For more information about the Schools of the Health Sciences, please visit http://www.health.pitt.edu . The Carnegie Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Museum are two of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh. For information about the museums, please visit www.carnegiemuseums.org.

 

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