21 de Marzo de 2019
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La Educación
Número: (134-135) I,II
Año: 2000


Medicine is the application of science to healing, and medical education must prepare physicians for this, a most humane and compassionate pursuit. But this is complex, and can be an illusive task. Information about disease and health has been presented to students with statistics, diagrams, numbers. The students learn the facts, pass the tests, graduate, and soon, all too often, might fall into a cold, insensitive, inhumane practice. Science alone desensitizes, lacks the emotional and moral anchor the physician needs to face pain and suffering. It was the dehumanization of medicine, the suggested failure in education, that led me to search for means to integrate compassion into the teaching of science.

ArtMedicine integrates art, the humanities and science. I have developed this discipline from medical discoveries I made through the scientific study of art. Art, I have reasoned, has been for ages, long before science, an integral part of the human condition. Ribera’s “The Tortilla Maker” can teach us more about education, nutrition and human intent than didactic volumes (Figure 1). ArtMedicine is applicable not only to medical education but to education in general. Its method of observation is based on “how the brain sees an image”. This I have demonstrated by describing how the brain’s visual system pathways might be able to see, for example, Vermeer’s perfectly realistic image of a “Woman Holding A Balance”, while the mind reflects on the subject that can serve as a model for a patient. This method of education is complete. It teaches the complexities of neuro-biology, the precision of Vermeer’s art, the analysis of human creation, while inspiring compassion for the subject’s pregnancy, for her longings, her risks.

ArtMedicine also enhances the capacity for discovery. For example, it was by investigating how Caravaggio’s work affected the brain, how the color contrasts create forms, that I discovered that the boy Caravaggio used in 1608 as a model for an angel, presented signs of disease. When I correlated the clinical findings, I realized that the boy presented, in detail, not only the joint deformation, but the liver, heart and kidney complications of Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. This disease is today the most crippling disease in childhood. This discovery redirects thought not only in art, but in medical science. The boy portrayed by Caravaggio is ugly, repugnant, if one expects an angel to be beauty’s archetype. Art experts had interpreted the ugly angel as a stylistic rendition of insanity, or a joke, or as an allegory of the “wickedness of love”. Scientists, in a similar manner, because they had not recognized the disease until the end of the 19th century, believed that rheumatic diseases were new, had appeared perhaps as a consequence of industrialization. Caravaggio’s angel is thus not only art, but a scientific document, its power transcends the ages, for it inspires compassion. It is thus only through the integration of art, neuroscience, and rheumatolgy that such a discovery could be realized.

ArtMedicine is applicable to education in art, the humanities and science. I have created an educational model to teach the basic concepts of medicine, of every medical specialty, from neuroscience to skin diseases, using art from all ages and cultures. For example, I teach dermatology and internal diseases integrated with the work of Rembrandt. I teach rheumatic diseases, the science of examining a sick child, the complexities of a diagnosis, and the compassion for the suffering with scientific facts integrated with materials I have created from Caravaggio’s masterpiece.

No other educational model offers ArtMedicine’s scientific and humane approach.

Figure 1. The Tortilla Maker, 1925, Diego Rivera, Mexican, 1886-1957