Julia Molnar –
“Art in Medicine” was a Fall 2018 research study that explored an innovative method for incorporating art and illustration into preclinical medical education. First-year medical students participated in a twelve-week elective course wherein they had the opportunity to discuss artwork, sketch cadaveric anatomy from observation, and ultimately present a portfolio for critique and exhibition. It aimed to enhance retention of anatomical knowledge through art, as well as improve skills in visual and spatial literacy. The study was limited to incoming medical students of the Class of 2022 at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine in New York. A control group was analyzed against a test group consisting of students in the “Art in Medicine” elective on the basis of three summative anatomy practical exams. In addition, a survey was administered to students in both the test and control groups at the beginning and completion of the course in order to obtain constructive feedback, promote self-reflection, and adjust for certain confounding variables. Amongst these variables were a background in illustration, preferred learning style, resources from which to supplement the study of anatomy, and any previous anatomy courses taken. This elective class allowed students to address anatomical concepts from a visual perspective. They learned how to distinguish structures using tone, shape, and color. They also became proficient in analyzing works of art and deciding how to communicate aspects of a given anatomical region to their audience. Further studies can assess whether art can be implemented in the instruction of residents, fellows, and attending physicians at multiple tiers within the hierarchy of continuing medical education.
[Keywords for this session: Anatomical Illustration, Preclinical Medical Education]
My path to the biological sciences was non-traditional. My undergraduate degree is in fine arts from Maryland Institute College of Art, and I have a Master’s in medical and biological illustration from Johns Hopkins. It was my Master’s thesis project on pterosaurs that brought me into contact with animal biomechanics researchers at Royal Veterinary College, where I worked as a research technician and eventually got my PhD. After serving as a visiting faculty member at Coastal Carolina University and a postdoctoral fellow at Howard University, I moved to my current position as assistant professor at New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine. My lab studies how animals move, and how their anatomy and function changes over time and in different environments. A day at work might involve collecting kinematic data from walking chameleons, dissecting salamander joints, or putting fossils into a micro-CT scanner. I also teach anatomy lecture and laboratory, where first-year medical students get their first opportunity to look inside a real human body. In both my research and teaching, I use my medical illustration training to help communicate anatomical and physiological concepts.