HeArt of Empathy


The HeART of Empathy documents actual medical student encounters with the visual arts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). Dr. Florence Gelo is the Behavioral Science Coordinator for Family Medicine Residency at Drexel University College of Medicine. Inspired by her personal experience as a Guide at the PMA, Dr. Gelo observed the emotional impact of paintings on the viewer, and imagined their use as a powerful teaching resource in medical education. She began to use the visual arts to educate students and residents in a variety of vital issues including: suffering, death and dying, religious diversity, cultural competency, and a deeper understanding of human emotion.

In this video medical students and residents engage with the visual arts as a means to enhance the development of empathy. As they interact with paintings that depict human suffering, reflect and respond emotionally, they begin to communicate their feelings. In so doing, they learn more about themselves, and expand their capacity to understand the feelings of others.

“By seeing human suffering pictured on a canvas…. it allows [the physician] to approach medicine with a human touch …” — Colin X. Jairam, MD Third Year Resident, DUCOM

“Having students experience themes of suffering, meaning, hope and resiliency through the visual arts enable them to have a window into what patients experience on a daily basis. Dr. Gelo’s approach to teaching empathy and whole person care is both creative and innovative.” — Christina M. Puchalski, MD, Executive Director, The George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health

“The inclusion of art as a prompt for reflection is a method that we can all use, in small or large ways, to inform ourselves as physicians and teachers about another dimension of human experience.” — John J. Frey III MD, Dept. of Family Medicine – U. of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

“A welcome reminder that empathy plays an important role in medicine. Educators can always be encouraged to try different ways of awakening students’ empathy and giving them a chance to express it freely.” — Caroline Wellbery, M.D., Ph.D, Georgetown U. – Asst. Deputy Editor, The American Family Physician Funded by the George Washington Institute for Spirituality and Health (GWish).

In cooperation with Drexel University College of Medicine.