The myth that people are either right brain dominant (creative and artistic) or left brain dominant (logical, good at math, etc.) is just a myth. The truth is that we only have one brain – the corpus callosum joins the right and left cerebral hemispheres because they are meant to work together. There are many examples of people who excelled in both the sciences and the arts.
Albert Einstein is remembered for being one of the most influential physicists in history, but a lesser known fact is that he played the violin. In fact, he was quoted as saying that most of the joy in his life came from his life also. He is also reported to have used music as a technique to aid in brainstorming.
Albert Schweitzer was a humanist, philosopher, musician, and theologian who was also a physician and worked as a medical missionary in what is now Gabon. Physicians and scientists who are actively involved in the arts often report that their involvement in both fields is mutually beneficial. Stephen Scheinman, MD, former dean of the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine who is also an opera singer, summed it up effectively with these words, “I couldn’t be a good doctor, or open up with my patients, if I didn’t have the arts in my life.”
Exploring the role of music in medicine
In addition to the therapeutic effect of music in the context of disease, it can also contribute to the improvement of clinical skills, which may influence patient outcomes. Sharp listening skills developed through years of music training can translate into the ability to hear subtle heart murmurs on auscultation. Musical training can also enhance active listening skills, which can be applied in clinical settings. Active listening involves paying attention to what is being said, how it is said, tone of voice, rate of speech, and even moments of silence. These skills can be enhanced through musical training. A medical school professor once told a story about a patient being unable to move their arm without a physical explanation. The patient was diagnosed with conversion disorder, and only after the medical student took the time to listen to his story was he able to move his arm. The opportunity to tell his story and express himself led to his recovery, but this only happened because the medical student took the time to actively listen to him.
Medical Humanities in Medical Education
The academic medical community now recognizes the importance of including the arts and humanities in medical education. Many medical schools have medical humanities courses for medical students in particular Penn State College of Medicine. In addition to the formal curriculum at Penn State Medical College, students, staff, faculty, and patients have the opportunity to publish narrative articles and artwork in a literary journal, wild onion.
Integrating the humanities into the curricula at the graduate medical education level has been more challenging, but there are ongoing efforts to do so, such as the Medical Humanities Initiative at Reading Hospital – Health Tower. In addition to the formal curriculum dealing with topics such as professionalism, spirituality and medical ethics, there are enrichment activities such as museum visits, storytelling events, opportunities to publish poetry, prose and artwork in a new literary journal, silver stripes.
Harvard Medical School has an Arts and Humanities Initiative co-led by Lisa Wong, a physician and musician who talks about music as medicine in this TED Talk. Wong is also the former director of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, a Boston-based orchestra composed primarily of medical musicians.
In partnership with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, researchers at the National Institutes of Health are exploring the potential of music to improve health through healthy health initiative. Their goals include exploring how the complex circuits in the brain associated with music can be harnessed for health and wellness. Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine It is an interdepartmental collaboration between Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Peabody Conservatory that actively explores the therapeutic power of music through various research initiatives. Researchers are studying the effect of music on patients with various conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The availability of effective non-pharmacological interventions in the treatment of neurological diseases will be a major contribution to this field. We all benefit from the holistic approach to science and art, and the recent focus on exploring the impact of music on healthcare and the inclusion of the humanities in medical training are steps in the right direction.
Olabigo Simoyan, MDHe specializes in addiction medicine.
This post appeared in Kevin.