Celebrating a decade of The Art of Medicine Rounds

September 2, 2022

The practice of medicine isn’t only about illness and disease. It’s also about doctors connecting with patients, and with their peers.

Sometimes the best way to build connections is through a study of the humanities, and that’s the idea behind The Art of Medicine Rounds. The monthly event at The University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences was created in August 2012 to remind physicians and other providers of the reason they likely entered health care in the first place – people. The Rounds, which is presented on the first Thursday of the month, provides an opportunity to expose CCHS faculty, staff, medical students, resident physicians to abroad range of subjects not usually covered in the medical school curriculum.

Medical educators have long argued that exposure to the humanities is an important part of training well-rounded, compassionate, and thoughtful physicians. Yet relatively few medical schools provide humanities-based learning experiences for students, residents, faculty, and staff. Recognizing the need for consistent humanities enrichment at the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences, Alan Blum, MD, Professor and Gerald Leon Wallace, MD, Endowed Chair in Family Medicine and Nelle Williams, associate professor and director of the College’s Health Sciences Library, set out to provide greater exposure of medical students, faculty, and staff to the arts.

Each Art of Medicine Rounds begins with a discussion of an artwork followed by an hour-long presentation. In the past decade, there have been nearly 120 talks and performances delivered by speakers from a wide range of disciplines. Presenters have included UA faculty in the fields of art, music, dance, poetry, sculpture, history, theatre, journalism, history, and philosophy. Numerous other speakers from across the US and Canada have appeared via Zoom. The series has also been promoted by the Canadian Association for Humanities.

On August 4, The Art of Medicine Rounds celebrated its 10th anniversary with the premiere of an original film, “The Art of Frank Calloway.” Calloway, a self-taught artist who took up painting while he was a patient at Bryce Hospital in Tuscaloosa, created whimsical scrolls of farm animals, circus trains, and colorful houses.

Dr. Blum, who produced the film with Kevin Bailey, the former CSTS collection manager and digital archivist, hopes that several of Calloway’s scrolls can be permanently displayed in the new Bryce Arts Complex currently under construction on the UA campus. In the process of creating the film, as well as a website to showcase Calloway’s artworks, Blum tracked down 60 pieces that had disappeared.

CCHS provides the clinical education years of medical school to a cohort of students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Marinex E. Heersink School of Medicine and operates the UA Tuscaloosa Family Medicine Residency Program. In addition, the College provides direct patient care to the UA campus and communities throughout West Alabama via six University Medical Center locations.