November 1, 2003

Weathered faces of drifters captured by photographer Richard Avedon. The John Singer Sargent portrait of heiress Alice Vanderbilt Shepard. These and other works of art are the centerpiece of a new partnership between UNT Health Science Center and the Amon Carter Museum.

Last March, the two Fort Worth institutions launched â??An Eye for Detail: The Art of Observation,â? a workshop where medical students developed their diagnostic skills by examining paintings and photographs from the museumâ??s collection. A second workshop was held in November.

The inaugural group of seven medical students participated in the free, six-hour extracurricular class, held on three Thursday evenings in March and April.

During each session, students looked closely at portraits in the galleries and shared their observations about the subject, including age, ethnicity, mood, occupation and other visual cues. Then they applied those same skills to medical photographs. A team of trained gallery teachers, a museum educator and medical school faculty facilitated the class.

â??Observation skills are absolutely critical for successful treatment but are hard to teach,â? said Bernard Rubin, DO, MPH, professor of internal medicine. â??Future physicians have to learn to trust their judgment and use technology or medical charts to supplement it, not replace it.â?

â??By looking closely at selected portraits in the museumâ??s collection, medical students can describe, share and back up what they see with visual clues,â? said Laura Matzer, public programs coordinator at the Amon Carter Museum. â??Our goal is that these future physicians will then apply those same critical observational skills in working with actual patients, and not go right for their charts.â?

The workshop is modeled after similar classes at Yale, Weill-Cornell, and the University of Texas at Houston.

Located across the street from each other, the health science center and the museum have long been neighbors in the museum district of Fort Worth.

The Carter opened in 1961 through the generosity of Amon G. Carter Sr. to house his collection of approximately 400 paintings and sculptures by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell. The collection has since grown to almost 250,000 works of American art, including masterpieces in painting, sculpture, photography and works on paper by leading artists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The photography collection alone is one of the largest and most significant in the country.


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