It’s unlikely that first-year occupational therapy student Amy Honeck will soon forget Paul Gauguin’s Sister of Charity.
Honeck researched and visited the oil painting — and even tried her hand at painting the nun depicted in the work— throughout her time in Art Rounds, an enrichment elective course offered through a collaboration between the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and the McNay Art Museum.
The course aims to teach students how to use visual thinking strategies they can use in practice with patients. Accordingly, Honeck and other students in the course were challenged to deepen their observations about pieces of art assigned to them as “patients” throughout the course.
“I see the value in being with the patient and getting to know them, really listening and focusing in on what they have to say,” Honeck said of the skills the course hones.
Katharyn Kubista, another first-year occupational therapy student in the class, appreciated the opportunity to listen to her classmates’ observations, which expanded her own view of their patient — a Paris streetscape painted by Maurice Utrillo. Learning about the painter’s life also added her to understanding.
“Getting the back story is so vital to help patients, “ she said.
Dr. Bridgett Piernik-Yoder, associate professor of Occupational Therapy, is one of the course instructors. Kate Carey, director of education of the McNay, is one of the museum’s educators for the course, which splits it sessions between the museum and the university.
“Our goal is to have students engaged in close observation of works of art,” Carey said. “Our second goal is to engage in a dialogue about the work of art, where students are making meaningful observations about what they are looking at together as a peer group. That dialogue, that conversation, that listening to peer responses—that’s another big priority for us.”
The course is an enrichment elective that was open to medical and nursing students when it was offered for the first time in 2009, Piernik-Yoder noted. This is the second year School of Health Professions students have been able to take the course, which is offered once a year, in the fall.
“From the students we have heard that there’s an increased interest in eye contact with their patients and physical observations of their patients,” Carey said.
That kind of feedback underscores the important lessons learned in Art Rounds, she added.
“Hearing that was so gratifying because it reinforced why it is we do this, “ she explained. “It’s not just because it’s a fruitful collaboration between two institutions. It really is about making experiences better and diagnoses more accurate in terms of patient care.”