The Art of Observation
Weissman read a New York Times article about
medical students at Yale and Cornell who were
honing this skill through the observation of art.
The idea invigorated the former physician
with a new sense of purpose. He wrote to four
m.edical schools in North Carolina to find out
who would be interested in providing this type
oflearning for their students.
"I figured this is my gold;' he said. "This is
what I've been waiting for. It was like putting on
a glove that fits."
Both the art museum and UNC's School of
Medicine thought the glove fit as well, so Weiss-
man designed a course that incorporated 19
paintings and sculptures whose subjects featured
physical abnormalities in their faces and figures.
"Art for Medicine" was open to second-year
medical students as part of their introduction to
clinical medicine course, making UNC one of
only five schools in the county to offer this type
ofprogram. Duke University also has experi-
mented with using art to teach observation.
While some of her classmates spent their
observation hours in radiology labs and teen
counseling sessions, second-year medical student
When Jed Ferguson first looked at a Byzantine painting ofJesus in the North Carolina Museum ofArt, he
didn't think much about the subject's yellow-
" 1 kind of thought maybe that was the only
color they had to use back then;' said the second-
year medical and doctoral student. He thought
his professor probably would say Jesus' flesh was
jaundiced, which is a discoloring of the skin.
But that wasn't what Dr. Edward WeiSSlTlan
had in mind. He urged Ferguson and his three
classmates to look a litde closer at the 13th-cen-
tury painting titled "Madouna and Child." Did
the students notice the disproportion of the
infant's head? Could that be a sign of micro-
cephaly, a condition in which a child is born
with an abnormally small head?
That line of questioning may sound a litde odd
for the typical museum tour, but this gallery view-
ing was nothing of the sort. Weissman, a retired
doctor-rurned-artist and museum docent, has
spent the past two semesters convincing 1. 1 sec-
ond-year medical student, that a modern abstract
painting by Carl Schmidt-Rotduff and Giovanni
Arltonio Bo1trafEo's"Portrait of a
Youth Crowned with Flowers"
are more than impersonal classics.
In his "Art for Medicine" work-
shops, he contends that art offers
students a platform for one ofthe
most crucial, yet often overlooked,
tools of diagnosing a patient:
"Once one is able to observe
these works of art, one can see
that something is wrong with
these subjects," he said. "One can
not only make a tentative diag-
nosis of a physical abnormality
but also perhaps a psychological
disorder based on the expression
of a subject's face."
A teacher of physical diagnosis
for more than 25 years at Albert
Einstein College of Medicine in
New York, Weissman, 77, knew H EIVIKI..ES, 2ND CENTURY BY UNKNOWN ROMAN ARTIST, NORTH CAROLINA M USEUM or- ART. GlFr or M R. AND M R. JACK LINSKY
medical schools sometimes taught observation by
using real patients, yet more frequendy turned to
actors who simulated sickness. But last year
Weissman brought Carolina medical students an idea
from Yale and Cornell. He was recently named an
adjunct assistant professor. DAN SE."" ' 74
if art) one
can see that
CAROL IN A ALUMNI REVIEW