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  • Integrating the Arts with Medicine // with Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara Mainguy

Integrating the Arts with Medicine // with Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara Mainguy

  • 04 September 2024
  • 29 October 2024
  • Online
  • 20



Medicine desperately needs the arts.

But artists can be quickly rejected when they don’t understand the culture of medicine and how doctors think.

Our aim is to provide language and visual artists with sufficient understanding of the culture of medicine that they can interact with physicians and other health professionals to bring the arts into patient care and the environment of medicine.

We also want to expose health care practitioners to the world of the artist to better understand how to interact with artists to improve patient care and also for their personal benefit.

Health care practitioners work within implicit stories that are largely not understood or examined by them. Through engaging with the arts, they can become more aware of these stories and able to reflect upon how they might change their stories to provide better patient care and also to nurture themselves and prevent personal burnout.

Medicine desperately needs the arts, but artists can be quickly rejected when they don’t understand the culture of medicine and how doctors think. To forestall that quick rejection, doctors need to understand how artists think.

Rita Charon of Columbia University has written about the importance of health care practitioners writing stories about their patients and their patient encounters.

  • Poetry and the visual arts provide other means for becoming aware of feelings, beliefs, and biases.
  • Improved language arts skills help physicians to find the metaphors of their patients’ illnesses.

We will finish the course by inviting participants to write a proposal for how they could bring their art into a health care setting within their environment. We hope they will present this proposal and make a positive contribution to that setting.

Week by Week

Week 1. Introduction to the arts in medicine with examples of successful interactions and programs.

Week 2. How do doctors think?

Week 3. How do artists think?

Week 4. What are the constraints existing in health care settings that make it hard to introduce the arts.

Week 5. Telling stories about patients – writing fiction and creative non-fiction.

Week 6. Poetry and medicine

Week 7. Bringing the Visual Arts into medicine

Week 8. Discussing projects that could be proposed into health care settings in participants’ neighborhoods.

Who Should Take This Class

We are interested in attracting artists of all types who want to bring their art into medicine. We also want to attract health care practitioners who are open to the arts and want more exposure to the arts and how they can use the arts in patient care and for their own personal growth and well-being.

We hope to create an opportunity for interactions within the live part of the class and also on the discussion board among health care practitioners and artists.

TLAN offers scholarships based on income as well as some partial scholarships for people living with serious illness and/or disability or people of color through the Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg Fund. Please fill out this scholarship application form so that we can find the best way to make the class accessible to you.


This is a hybrid online class, conducted through Zoom meetings and the online classroom Wet Ink.

Zoom meetings are scheduled for 4:30 pm Eastern time on Tuesdays. Sessions will be recorded and made available only to the class. 

Online readings and an asynchronous discussion board will be hosted on the online teaching platform Wet Ink. The day before class begins, you will receive an email invitation from Wet Ink. There are no browser requirements, and Wet Ink is mobile-friendly. The Wet Ink platform allows you to log in and complete the coursework on your own time. 

About the Facilitators

Lewis Mehl-Madrona is a practicing physician and a writer of creative nonfiction, poetry, and fiction. He studied creative writing at Indiana University and then attended Stanford University School of Medicine. He finished his postgraduate medical training in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He completed the Novel Writing Certificate Program at Stanford University and has a first novel that is in process of being published. He has also published poetry, photography, and short fiction. He wrote Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, and Coyote Wisdom, a trilogy of stories about healing with traditional elders. 

Barbara Mainguy studied philosophy at the University of Toronto, Creative Arts Therapy at Concordia University, and received a Master of Social Work from the University of Maine. She practices psychotherapy with the tribes of Maine. Barbara completed a certificate program in the Arts and Medicine at the University of Maine, which Lewis helped co-create.

The TLA Network exists to support and promote individuals and organizations that use the spoken, written, or sung word as a tool for personal and community transformation.

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