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Stanford University School of Medicine

What art and the humanities bring to medicine: a look from Stanford Medicine magazine

Imagine your doctor told you at the end of an exam, “I’m going to prescribe you an artistic experience.” Would you be thinking, “Time to get a new doctor”?

Well, you might want to stick with the one you have. As I edited the new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, I learned that taking part in art probably won’t cure you, but, depending on your particular illness, it really could help. People with Parkinson’s disease, for instance, benefit physically and psychologically from taking dance classes.

The winter issue of Stanford Medicine, produced in collaboration with Stanford’s Medicine and the Muse program, features articles on the role of the arts and humanities in medicine, among them an article on Dance for PD, a program that offers dance classes to people with Parkinson’s disease. In the article, neurologist Helen Bronte-Stewart, MD, explains:

The worlds of dance and medicine have been far apart for a long time. That is why this is so exciting... As physicians, we stress the importance of physical activity, social interaction and mental stimulation to our patients with Parkinson’s disease... Dance for PD gives them all three. But it is much more than a possible therapy or treatment; the PD dancers have told us this type of dance restores their self-image and brings them joy.

video that will cheer your soul about the dance program is available on the magazine’s website.

Also in the issue:

  • "Healing arts": A physician-poet’s essay on the movement to include the arts and humanities in medical education and practice.
  • "Expressions": A collection of stories about Stanford medical students who use art in a variety of ways to become better doctors.
  • "The body majestic": A Q&A with Max Aguilera-Hellweg, MD, a world-class photographer who earned a medical degree and then returned to photography to document the body during surgery and in everyday life.
  • "Art and the eye": An article by an ophthalmologist explaining how our eyes help us perceive color, including strategies artists use, knowingly or otherwise, to create magical effects.
  • "Picture imperfect": A story about children in chronic pain who use photography to convey their experiences to their families and doctors.

The issue also includes an article about a new paradigm for cancer research that looks beyond mutations as the cause of the disease, and a feature about a newborn’s life-and-death battle that revealed the power of a few mutant heart cells to wreak massive damage.

Previously: The power and limits of zeroing in: Stanford Medicine magazine on diagnostics, Strive, thrive and take five: Stanford Medicine magazine on the science of well-being and Ties that heal: Stanford Medicine magazine examines relationships
Illustration by Jeffrey Fisher

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