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Drawing more from health

Monday, 16th August, 2010

* Students Christian Minett and Kate Wagner said art has a place in medical studies. * Students Christian Minett and Kate Wagner said art has a place in medical studies.

Health students and life drawing might not usually go together but under a locally-run program the concept could become more widespread.

In what West Darling Arts' James Giddey said is "probably an Australian first", a non-clinical art-focused component has been attached to the local university's extended clinical placement program.
Mr Giddey said Enrich, which he designed, aimed to integrate the students into the wider community but would also help their professional careers by considering art in health.

"I designed a non-clinical (program) to enhance their experience in the bush," he said.
"But the main aim is to get the doctors to think about art in health."
Mr Giddey, the regional art development officer, said the Enrich program would give east coast university students in Broken Hill for extended clinical placements a hands on experience with the city's art scene.
The clinical program sees students from universities in Adelaide, Sydney and Woolongong, who are in their third or fourth year of medical studies, come to the city for a 40-week stay. They work at local GP clinics, the RFDS and the local hospital.
The Enrich program attaches to that, focusing on four areas: life drawing, movement, photography and Aboriginal art and culture. The students have one four-hour class in each subject taught by local artists including Robin Sellick,
Geoff deMain, Sarah Martin, Eddie Harris and Anthony Heyward.
Mr Giddey said the art classes were not going to make them the next Monet.
"We want them to have fun and there's no pressure on them to make a masterpiece or anything like that," he said.
"We want it to be hands on they where they actually do something, students looking at the human form from an aesthetic point of view within a group with a trained art teacher.
"Their whole profession is the human body."
Mr Giddey said the practice of using art in health was used widely overseas.
"We need to get this embedded into the program out here," he said.
"I'm quite confident that this will grow but it has to really because Australia needs to catch up with overseas. In England they really have the arts embedded with the end of life - when people are dying.
"We want to start off with the arts (which) is a part of the culture anyway.
"We will try and make it grow from there because it's probably the first time in Australia that this is happening."
Kate Wagner is a third year University of Woolongong medical student who arrived in the city about four weeks ago.
She said this week's class, life drawing, made her view the body differently.
"I decided to focus on smaller details with the life drawing but in medicine you don't tend to focus on small details," Ms Wagner said.
"We come across (naked bodies) a lot in medicine but this is in an artistic context not in a physiological sense.
"It was very enjoyable, different ... it's therapeutic both for the patient and for the medical practitioner."
Christian Minett, an occupational health student from the University of Newcastle, said using health in art could become a diagnostic tool.
"If the client likes using it you're going to use it in their recovery."
Meanwhile Ms Wagner said this type of program might entice her to work in the bush.
"It's a lot prettier than I anticipated," she said.
"It's probably somewhere I would come back to after I graduated."

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