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Surprising Science

Why Creativity is Essential to Practicing Medicine

Medical institutions must continue to insist on equipping doctors with creative skills, whether that means learning to paint or write poetry, in order to compliment increasingly mechanistic protocols. 

What’s the Latest Development?

In a recent issue of Academic Medicine, Dr. Niamh Kelly asks what it would take to bring creativity to the everyday practice of medicine, which is increasingly determined by mechanical and algorithmic processes. “Patients and diseases do not come as prepackaged widgets. A slavish approach to standardized treatments without any creativity can do more harm than good. ‘It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease,’ the famous Sir William Osler is reputed to have said, ‘than what sort of a disease a patient has.'”

What’s the Big Idea?

Instead of concentrating exclusively on medical protocol and memorizing anatomy, medical schools should promote interdisciplinary studies with an emphasis on the arts, says Danielle Ofri, an associate professor of medicine at New York University. “Poetry is one of my favorite tools because of its unselfconscious focus on metaphor. By definition, metaphor requires the stringing together of parts of the mind that don’t normally work together. Master diagnosticians and scientists cogitate in the same way, actively considering ideas that don’t normally sit together.”

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Read it at the New York Times


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