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First-year PA students learn the “art” of dermatology

Class of 2018 students from the Winston-Salem and Boone campuses of the Wake Forest PA Program practiced observational skills during their study of dermatology through the innovative approach of describing art at Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem and the Turchin Center for Visual Arts in Boone.  Wake Forest is the only PA program in North Carolina to use art in the curriculum in this manner, and this is the fourth year the Wake Forest PA program has partnered with Reynolda House to teach dermatology.

At Reynolda House, PA Program faculty Gail Curtis, MPAS, PA-C, and Tanya Gregory, PhD, and Reynolda House Director of Education Kathleen Hutton facilitated small group sessions to uncover some of the challenges inherent in close observation and how observing art can help students to characterize dermatologic conditions.  These challenges include using tangential versus direct lighting to best reveal contour, viewing small portions as well as the larger picture to see how multiple, diverse lesionss can form one condition, and the importance of accurate and complete description when speaking to other clinicians about dermatologic lesions.  Works observed included Andes of Ecuador (1955) by Frederic Church, Reclining Figure (1935) by David Smith, and Spring Turning (1936) by Grant Wood. 

At the Boone Campus, students completed similar tasks at the Turchin Center for Visual Arts.  In addition to scanning the exhibits for their sheer artistic value, the students participated in a number of activities to hone their skills of description and observation. They wandered through the “Strange Gardens” exhibit by Julia Barello and experienced a whole hue of diversity from contemporary Brazilian artists such as Brígida Baltar, Raul Mourão, Vik Muniz, and Sérgio Sister.  “It was a great chance to get our minds out of science mode and remember how beautiful life can be.  I’m really glad we are getting to expand our understanding of the medical profession beyond just charts and numbers, and take into account that we are here to make life better for the people who will need us,” said one student of the experience at the Turchin Center for Visual Arts. [written by Alyssa Murray and Andrew Gray, Class of 2018]



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