The Art of Medicine and What Physicians Can Learn From Actors.

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Portrait of an Artist by David Hockney

My grandfather was very sick. He likely suffered from hepatitis and possibly also sarcoidosis – we don’t really know. A definitive diagnosis had never been made. He died when he was 48 years of age. I never met him. From what my grandmother told me about him, he frequently decompensated experiencing peripheral edema, ascites and what sounds to me like pulmonary congestion. When he experienced these episodes, they frequently called a renowned physician who lived nearby. The physician was tall, talked eloquently in a somber voice, he was perceived as very sharp and had even written a successful book, which was rare at that time. From what I’ve learned about him, he approached his patients in a way that could best be described as a ritual, almost like in a play. Grandma told me that my grandfather got better whenever the physician visited him, even if he had no treatment to offer. This colleague understood and embraced the skills that make medicine a form of art. Unfortunately, these skills are seldomly taught in medical school. It’s how he talked, the words he chose, their intonation, his posture, the empathy, the humor. It seems to me that for some of us, taking dancing lessons or learning how to sing and act might make us better physicians than reading just another scientific publication.

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Franz is an internist with a specialization in cardiology. He co-founded the e-learning company 123sonography and MedCrunch. Franz is Associate Professor for internal medicine at the Medical University of Vienna. In 2001 he did his MPH at Johns Hopkins University as a Fulbright scholar. Follow Franz at @franzwiesbauer.

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