Overheard one recent day in the galleries, one medical student to another: “I cannot overemphasize how big his sideburns are.”
For the fourth year, Duke first-year medical students in the practice course have come to the Nasher Museum to hone their visual perception and communication skills. The program is run by Anne Schroder, curator and academic program coordinator, and me (Juline Chevalier, curator of education), in collaboration with Dr. Barbara Sheline, associate professor in family medicine.
The medical students come to the Nasher Museum for an interactive 90-minute program. The experience begins in the lecture hall as students view slides and do some “guided looking” activities with Anne and me. We ask students to discuss what they see in a portrait and what they can tell about the person in the portrait after viewing it for only 20 seconds. Students also carefully examine a landscape from the Nasher Museum’s permanent collection to get warmed up for their gallery adventures.
One of the most challenging projects we give the students is “Back to Back” drawing. Students work in pairs: One takes on the role of “viewer” and the other takes on the role of “listener.” The viewer faces an artwork and the listener stands with his/her back to the viewer. The viewer then describes the artwork in detail while the listener draws what the viewer is describing. The catch is that the viewer cannot see what the listener is drawing, and the listener cannot ask any questions. Hence, the sideburns comment.
The medical school students come away with some very important take-home messages including the fact that starting with an overview of an artwork (before diving into details) is very helpful when describing an artwork, or a diagnosis. Students also learned to appreciate the varied things that different individuals noticed in a single artwork, and how having multiple opinions or eyes on a patient or case can be important.
IMAGE: Duke medical students visit the Nasher Museum galleries. Photo by Juline Chevalier