Medical Aesthetics studies the relationship between medicine and the arts (visual arts, theatre, music, dance, literature) and is a rich, growing area of inquiry and practice that involves academic research, health care education, and clinical care.
One aspect of medicine and arts is the representation of medicine in paintings, sculpture, and literature themselves - how physicians and nurses are described, how film portrays hospitals, how medical research is treated, how disease and illness are addressed in novels and poetry, how anatomy and artistic practice develop. In looking at these issues, we can get great insight into how medicine, health, and illness are understood and experienced.
Another aspect of medicine and the arts draws on literary and aesthetic studies for the practical education and support of health care professionals. Using poetry, novels, drawing, painting, performing, and music, students in medical and nursing schools can explore their own ways of looking at patients and themselves, learning better ways to communicate, articulate emotion, empathize with patients, and deal with their own experiences of death and hope.
Finally, there is also a direct clinical aspect of medicine and art. Growing in popularity and needing more empirical investigation, the fields of art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, and narrative medicine all use the expression and practice of art to help heal patients and assist them in managing their illnesses. The clinical efficacy of the arts as healthcare treatment is being studied, closing an interesting circle of artistic expression in patient, physician, and society at large.