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Heartfelt images: learning cardiac science artistically
  1. Carol Ann Courneya
  1. Correspondence to Dr Carol Ann Courneya, Department of Cellular and Physiological Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada; courneya{at}


There are limited curricular options for medical students to engage in art-making during their training. Yet, it is known that art-making confers a variety of benefits related to learning. This qualitative study utilises a visual methodology to explore students’ art-making in the context of the cardiovascular sciences. The existence of a multiyear repository of medical/dental student generated, cardiac-inspired art, collected over 6 years, provided the opportunity to explore the nature of the art made. The aim was to categorise the art produced, as well as the depth and breadth of understanding required to produce the art. The data set included a wide variety of titled art (paintings, photographs, sketches, sculptures, collages, poetry and music/dance). Systematic curation of the collection, across all media, yielded three main categories: anatomical renderings, physiology/pathophysiology renderings and kinesthetic creations (music/dance/tactile). Overall (medical and dental) student-generated art suggested a high level of content/process understanding, as illustrated by attention to scientific detail, integration of form and function as well as the sophisticated use of visual metaphor and word play. Dental students preferentially expressed their understanding of anatomy and physiology kinesthetically, creating art that required manual dexterity as well as through choreography and dance. Combining art-making with basic science curricular learning invited the medical and dentistry students to link their understanding to different modes of expression and a non-biomedical way of knowing. Subsequent incorporation of the student-generated cardiac art into lectures exposed the entire class to creative pictorial expressions of anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology.

  • art and medicine
  • cardiology
  • medical education
  • music
  • dance

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  • Twitter Follow Carol Ann Courneya @cacourneya

  • Contributors CAC planned and implemented the study and wrote the manuscript.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval University of British Columbia Research Ethics Board.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.