Week 4_Art as a Form of Medicine by Christina Cheng

In the original version of The Oath, Hipprocrates presents his duty as a physician and his knowledge in the medical field as a form of art.  As he describes, “with purity and with holiness I will pass my life and practice my Art.”  This shows that as early as Hippocrates’s time, there was already a unique tie between science and art.  Science can be found in art, and art can be found in science.  It can be seen that for Hippocrates, being a physician is not just about having the knowledge to cure someone’s disease; rather, it is about the art of providing them with a sense of comfort and care while helping he or she heal and overcome the pain.  In fact, in Lasagna’s modern version of The Hippocratic Oath, he states something very similar to what Hippocrates described: “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.”  After reading both versions, I thought that this was one of the key statements of the oath.  This is because it directly emphasizes the importance of both art and science in medical practices.  To me, a good doctor should not only be professional at his duty, but he or she should also be able to demonstrate friendliness and concern to the patient.  Often, it is the encouragement from the doctor and the close relationship that a patient develops with the doctor that motivates the patient to endure the challenges of being sick.  Hence, it is not to say that going through four years of medical school and having great medical knowledge is not enough; rather, it is to say that a doctor’s ability to master the art of communicating with his or her patients is just as important as having a solid science background.

After reading both versions of The Oath, I immediately thought about the use of art in current medical practices and facilities.  In recent years, art, writing, music, and other types of non-science techniques have been thought to have positive influences in the process of healing.  At the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, volunteers organized several ArtCare programs to help boost the morale of the patients as they go through the process of healing.  One of their programs was the community tile sculpture, in which patients and hospital workers created, painted, and installed tiles at one part of the hospital.  Another one of the small projects at the hospital was a stained glass project.  The purpose of the stained glass project was to encourage communication between patients and hospital staffs as they worked together to produce a mock stained glass of a picture that the patient liked.  Moreover, for older patients, the volunteers chose a 20th century timeline project, for that making a timeline would enable older patients to think and talk about their valuable memories and experiences in life.  Meanwhile, writing and music were also incorporated into the ArtCare Program.  For the poetry project, patients were encouraged to express their feelings through writing.  All the pieces were later combined into a booklet that was displayed at the hospital.   Throughout the medical center, there were occasionally singers, artists, magicians, musicians, and even clowns who performed for the patients and staffs as a way of uplifting the spirit within the hospital.  More information about hospital art programs can be found at this site: http://www.artashealing.org/ahfw6.htm

            Furthermore, many modern hospitals, especially children’s hospitals, are now decorated colorfully to provide patients and workers with a happier and more relaxing atmosphere.  Instead of having the white walls of a traditional hospital, many of them now have wall murals, sculptures, decorations, and paintings throughout the halls.  In Ohio, the Akron Children’s Hospital is decorated with artworks by both professional and children artists.  The artworks are all based on the theme of “Through the Eyes of a Child,” and a couple of the decorations are shown below:

    

            After all, whether it is through art programs or artworks on hospital walls, many medical professionals are moving toward the trend of using art as a form of medicine.  By providing patients with a ground to express their feelings through art, medical staffs are able to help the patient reduce the stress of being ill at a hospital.  In addition, working on different art projects with medical staffs also strengthens the staff-patient relationships as staffs are given a chance to hear about the patient’s thoughts and concerns.  Therefore, in addition to the scientific knowledge of medical professionals, the incorporation of art as a therapy and as a form of medicine is just as beneficial to a patient’s process of healing.

 

- Christina Cheng

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