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February 4, 1998

Incorporating Art and Creativity Into Medical Practice

Author Affiliations

Brown University School of Medicine

Brown University School of Medicine

JAMA. 1998;279(5):398. doi:10.1001/jama.279.5.397

As a medical student, I often hear comments such as "medicine is both art and science." I rarely see the incorporation of the creative arts in daily medical practice. This issue of Pulse presents new perspectives on the value of the arts in medical therapy, healing, and recovery.

Exactly how the arts improve a patient's condition has yet to be answered. Perhaps the value of art in medical practice is best gleaned from the stories of those actively incorporating it into their lives.

Annette Ridenour reviews the changes in how medical institutions incorporate art into health care delivery. The goal of Patch Adams, MD, is to transform the lives of his patients through clowning. When he writes about his encounter with a young, bed-ridden Russian girl, one no longer wonders just how creative a physician can be with patients in order to relieve their suffering.

Next, Pamela Cruze recounts the creation of the sculpture Night Light with artist Christiane Corbat. Recovering from breast cancer, Cruze took the process of creating a piece of art as an invitation to influence her healing process.

Finally, Eric W. Ring, MD, remembers lessons from his clerkship during medical school.

Ring found the act of writing about difficult situations to be therapeutic. Like Cruze, he used the creative process—in this case the act of writing a fictionalized account—to transform past events into experiences he then was able to better understand. His story and the others illustrate the power the creative arts hold for patients as well as practitioners.