When art meets medicine

Medical students will soon benefit from a new training tool. Surgical gowns for students have been designed by UK researchers at Durham University with the help of artists at the University of Ulster. 'The gowns, which would be worn by medical students in the classroom, will supplement the traditional plastic models of the human body that are currently in global use as teaching aids.' The garment, named 'Incisions,' will be shown in an exhibit starting to day at the Museum of Science in Boston, before moving to another science museum later. But read more...

Medical students will soon benefit from a new training tool. Surgical gowns for students have been designed by UK researchers at Durham University with the help of artists at the University of Ulster. 'The gowns, which would be worn by medical students in the classroom, will supplement the traditional plastic models of the human body that are currently in global use as teaching aids.' The garment, named 'Incisions,' will be shown in an exhibit starting to day at the Museum of Science in Boston, before moving to another science museum later. But read more...

The 'Incisions' surgical gown

You can see above a close-up of the world's first 'operation' gown showing where incisions should be made on the body." (Credit: Durham University/North News) Here is a link to a slightly larger version. You also might want to look at a short video showing how this gown can be used (1 minute and 42 seconds). It is available from a BBC News Online report, "Surgical gown 'marked up for ops'.

This surgical gown has been developed under the supervision of Professor John McLachlan, Associate Dean in Durham University's School for Health. But the artistic job was lead by Karen Fleming, Reader at the University of Ulster.

The University of Ulster issued its own news release which contains the same text as the Durham University one, but offers another of the garment. Here are some details. "The gown has nine zips showing where surgeons make cuts in the body for various operations such as removal of the appendix and open heart surgery and its silk material is more like human tissue than the plastic of the traditional models. Medical students will wear the gown in the classroom whilst fellow students learn about surgical incisions using the zips. It will lead to a greater understanding of what it means to be the patient, say the developers."

The news release also states why this new training tool will complement currently available teaching aids. [The researchers] "say that, although the traditional plastic models can be used to show areas of the body and where incisions will roughly be made, they are not able to give medical students a sense of the feeling if they were the patient or show them the type of texture they will find once they have made an incision."

What is even more interesting in this approach is outlined by Professor John McLachlan. "'Current anatomical teaching aids describe but they don’t evoke. They take no account of emotional involvement or the feel of the body. The way medical students distance themselves emotionally from the patient’s body has long been seen as a desirable outcome of current modes of medical training. But this ‘desensitation’ also brings with it the risk of objectifying the body. The patient becomes ‘the liver in bed four’ rather than Mrs Smith. We think we can use art to bring meaning back into medical teaching and we want to help students understand the significance of the body as well as its structure.'"

This looks like a good idea to me, but what's your take?

Sources: Durham University news release, January 30, 2008; and various websites

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