What insight does a dentist have to offer on the importance of the arts? Plenty, it turns out.
Recently, Dr. Neal Fleisher, Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of General Dentistry and Director of Pre-doctoral Periodontology at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM), gave a talk at the launch of The Arts Factor 2014 Report by ArtsBoston. The Report gives insight into the ways that the arts are growing and strengthening Boston's economy and building a vibrant community in which people want to live and work.
Dr. Fleisher first became interested about the potential benefits of art appreciation for dental students three years ago, when he read about a program at Yale Medical School that brought medical students to the University’s museums. As a means to improve patient care, he and his colleagues created a program at GSDM that teaches dental students art appreciation skills. The course, which is taught as part of each first year DMD student's required training, gives students the opportunity to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to examine and discuss works of art through a new learning system known as Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). The purpose of VTS is to utilize the arts in allowing students to cultivate their own ideas and appreciating the perspectives of their peers.
Dr. Fleischer explained to his audience that art is of great benefit to those in the dental profession because few dentists "are naturally gifted at looking at a patient or at a set of X-rays and figuring out what they are telling us about a patient—which is, of course, the critical component in the practice of medicine and dentistry. To properly diagnose our patients, dentists need to be able to explore all possible sources of the problem, to critically analyze all the symptoms and findings. In many cases, we’ll involve colleagues in the process, we’ll communicate with each other, making critical observations and discussing them in a detailed and succinct manner. It’s not always easy to teach these skills in a traditional classroom and it seems that utilizing this VTS technique works very well at opening this door for our students.”
Dr. Fleischer recognizes that engaging in the arts stimulates critical thinking and helps to reframe and solve problems in new ways. Learn more about the VTS program at the Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine.