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PAFA Offers Training in the Arts to Medical Students and Physicians

Photo Credit: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

By Taylor Smith

The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) in Philadelphia, founded in 1805, is the first and oldest art museum and school in the United States. In a unique partnership with area medical schools, PAFA provides humanities-based training for medical students, nursing students, university faculty members, and practicing physicians.

PAFA currently works with three area medical schools – Drexel University College of Medicine, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University, and Cooper Medical School at Rowan University.

PAFA aims to supply future and practicing physicians with a new set of skills when it comes to assessing, interpreting, and diagnosing physical cues and signals. Exercises led by trained museum staff focus on enhancing one’s intellectual literacy of the connection between artists and doctors as it relates to the experiences of the human body. Such humanities-based coursework is intended to encourage and improve non-clinical skills like accurate visual observations, empathy for patients, teamwork, emotional intelligence, and historical context.

Current program elements include:

  • Anatomy drawing with trained artists
  • Lectures on historic collaborations between artists and doctors
  • Talks and workshops on art as a therapeutic modality for patients and practitioners
  • Close examinations of artwork within the galleries
  • Workshops on learning to communicate visually
  • Team-building exercises
  • Workshops on improving empathy and emotional intelligence

PAFA’s founder, Charles Wilson Peale, was both a celebrated scientist and painter. In fact, Peale had a great interest in natural history, and organized the first U.S. scientific expedition in 1801.

With over 16,000 works, PAFA is committed to collecting the finest examples of historic, modern, and contemporary American art. It’s internationally-renowned permanent collection ranges from Winslow Homer to Alice Neel.

Museum hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For admission and ticket information, visit

Photo Credit: Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

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