“How did this person die because they couldn’t get the last $50 they needed on their GoFundMe? The arts and the humanities broadly really help students see that these are not just data points. They are stories of real people,” Eickmeyer said. “It also shows students, unfortunately, these stories are not uncommon in the United States. The arts have been a good way for them to see the same outcome but presented in different ways.”
“I am trained in public health, in which we think about big populations and large datasets and trends across time. But for us, and especially for people who are going to be providing one-on-one care for patients, we really can’t lose sight of that individual experience and how, even when we’re looking at this big population health data, the experiences along the same trends can look very different for people. What I have found through my teaching is that using the humanities and the arts have been really good tools to expose students to these ideas in a way that they’re not getting in their pre-med curriculum. With the arts, students remember the human-centered, patient-centered, approach to thinking about healthcare and zoom in to the individual-level on the big issues.”
As for what students will do with the art, Eickmeyer said, “Students are going to get credit for visiting the gallery and writing a reflection on one of the pieces. Additionally, they’re also going to create some of their own art or multimedia pieces.”
Ultimately, Eickmeyer hopes that students learn that, although they can improve health outcomes and equity through policy changes, much work is needed in other societal areas, and in their interpersonal practice, in order to achieve the necessary widespread change.
“Even if you fixed the policy aspects of our healthcare system and gave everyone access to healthcare services, there would still be so many stark disparities because of broader social issues, such as racism and homophobia and the carceral state,” Eickmeyer said. “So, we need people to be thinking about the health policy issues, of course, but we also need to be thinking about broader trends.”