Teaching the Art of Medicine

First-year Miller School medical students spent a day at the Lowe Art Museum for a reality check on how AI will influence their careers.

Two instructors discuss a Lowe Art Museum painting with a group of medical students

First-year medical student Aidan Kunju recently found himself not in a University of Miami Miller School of Medicine classroom or the clinic, but at the Lowe Art Museum.

Kunju’s museum day was anything but typical. First, he input disease symptoms into artificial intelligence (AI) large language models and received differential diagnoses suggestions. Next, virtual reality (VR) headsets transported him to a virtual operating room to intubate patients. Finally, through an approach called Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), he interpreted a few of the Lowe’s works of art to show how humans bring their own biases to what they see.

“The way we learned to look at art and ask questions is directly applicable to how we ask questions to patients to get to the root of an illness,” Kunju said. “Every single time you walk into a room with a patient, you’re going to be asking questions, whether it’s to yourself or your colleagues or, most importantly, to patients themselves.”

The day at the Lowe was part of the Miller School’s first-year curriculum and the brainchild of Gauri Agarwal, B.S. ’96, M.D. ’00, associate dean for curriculum and associate professor of medicine and medical education at the Miller School. Dr. Agarwal has an abiding interest in the medical humanities and created the curriculum as part of a yearlong course she took at the Harvard Macy Institute.

“AI is such a rapidly evolving world that whatever we teach them about the technology itself will be outdated very quickly,” Dr. Agarwal said. “Our job is to get students to think more about integration of AI into health care. What is my role as a human being? What will never be replaced by a machine because of my human skills?”

Miller School medical students in a group classroom at the Lowe Art Museum
As part of the new curriculum, medical students created their own works of art.

The medical students prepared for the museum rotation with an online seminar during which UHealth — University of Miami Health System doctors and nurses discussed how they use AI and VR in their clinical and research practices. The session concluded in the children’s pavilion, where the students created their own artwork.

Dr. Agarwal’s session is now required for first-year medical students. Future iterations will include sessions using poetry, narrative medicine and bioethics through the lens of AI. Nursing and physical therapy students also are slated to take part in the upcoming term.

Dr. Agarwal is analyzing survey data and student feedback for a pre-learning module she’ll submit to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) MedEdPORTAL, so other medical schools can access the information.

First-year student Isha Harshe was grateful for this unique opportunity.

“It is eye-opening that it is not going to be a choice of whether AI is going to be a part of our careers,” Harshe said. “It’s here to stay, and it’s up to us to understand its usefulness and its limits. Being able to explore this in my first year of medical school is really valuable. It helps inform me as I go through my rotations to see how I can optimize the use of AI.”

A Miller School medical student uses a VR headset at the Lowe Art Museum
Medical students tried out VR headsets at the Lowe Art Museum.

Prior to the class, Harshe had no experience with virtual reality and found it a disorienting, if interesting, learning experience.

“Losing my physical sense of where I was in space took time to get used to,” she said. “It was harder to use than I thought it would be, but I kept practicing the intubation and got better.”

Harshe is curious about how the simulated AI technique translates to the real thing but sees value in the introduction to the operating room, virtual or not.

Kunju appreciated the art analysis in particular. When he looked at a portrait of a young black man in a Renaissance gallery, he clearly saw a commentary on social justice. ChatGPT, however, focused on details like flowers and hummingbirds, until specifically prompted about the painting’s statement about diversity and inclusion.

“With these machines, you have to ask the right questions,” Kunju said. “It’s a human thing to automatically understand what is going on in the world and how it impacts specific situations. AI is shifting the role of a physician from just being a pure source of knowledge toward these other skills like understanding the context – the cultural and environmental factors – behind patient stories.”

This connection to our shared humanity, Dr. Agarwal said, is exactly the point.

“The students learn that, by deep and intentional examination and analysis, you see more and more that can be missed if you make a snap judgment,” she said. “They also learn to communicate with each other, building human skill sets and expanding their own curiosity and creativity of thought.”

Important collaborators who led the session included:

Lokesh Saravanan Ramamoorthi, lecturer, University of Miami College of Engineering

Greta Mitzova-Vladinov, D.N.P., associate professor, University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies

Thomas Merrick, adjunct professor, University of Miami, Frost Institute for Data Science and Computing

Tola Porter, Ph.D., museum educator, University of Miami

Yatil Etherly, museum educator, University of Miami

Mark Osterman, manager, Museum Digital Experience, University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences

Tags: AI, Dr. Gauri Agarwal, medical education, medical students, technology