Yoga, improv: New kind of medical school

Being a good doctor takes more than knowing about procedures, medications, and body chemistry.

The most valuable learning may not even be in science.

So local medical schools now have classes to fill those needs.

A yoga class at University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine also serves as an anatomy lesson. The moves are coordinated to reinforce lessons from the anatomy lab, so students better understand how the body works.

"They were working on the abdomen and thorax, so all the yoga was geared toward the abdomen and thorax," Mitchell Lewis, Professor of Biomedical Research at Penn, said.

Besides anatomy, the class teaches another vital skill for doctors - listening.

Listening and observation are also important in an improvisation class at Temple University's Katz School of Medicine.

Kristen Schier of the Philadelphia Improv Theater gives students a scenario to act out on the fly.

Their success depends on building a conversation from a tiny bit of information - the same tactic they'll need to determine what's ailing a patient.

"You really got to listen, you have to pick up the little things they are saying, you got to take every detail and just be curious," Schier said.

The growing number of humanities classes in medical schools reap other benefits.

"It teaches them very fundamental abilities to collaborate which is very important in working with patients, accepting patients and also working with colleagues," Dr. Douglas Reifler, Katz School of Medicine's Associate Dean of Student Affairs, said.

Such classes also relieve the stress for medical students and may give the future doctors outlets to help them prevent burnout. More than 40% of doctors report feeling burned out, with family doctors reporting some of the highest rates.


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