Integrating Intuition and Logic

Written by on February 3, 2012 in Art - No comments
Window Pastel

By Leigh Ann Simpson

As patients become more informed about their health and are given more provider options, the value of positive patient experience has skyrocketed and become a major competitive focal point in the health care today. Patients and their families no longer expect doctors to simply treat; they are demanding to be – and respond better when – shown compassion. Although a physician’s ability to empathize with patients is more essential than ever before, some doctors still find it difficult to utilize both their knowledge and intuition at the same time during their daily routine of practicing medicine. Marianne Mitchell, a professor at the Division of Medical Humanities of Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, teaches medical students how to enhance their capability to be more considerate and in tune with their patients with a unique theory that she has developed on how to integrate logical and intuitive thought. Mitchell instructs her students on the application of this theory through the process of painting abstract art.

Through her experience as both an artist and a teacher, Mitchell has developed an understanding of the relationship between the right and left sides of the brain that she applies to her paintings. “My process of creating a painting always starts in ‘reckless abandonment mode’ – the subconscious, intuitive realm of thought – and eventually employs my ‘critic’ – logical, linear thought, to determine the next course of action in the work,” Mitchell says. “Making a painting is a continuous, simultaneous process of going back and forth between spontaneity and intention – intuition and logic – ultimately leading to its completion.”

Mitchell’s course offers insight into the complementary roles of emotional and analytical thinking in regards to developing a comprehensive approach to patient interaction. It also allows medical students to take a break from their rigid schedule to seek personal discovery through the process of creating abstract art.

“There is an initial focus on intuitive thinking through a series of drawing exercises, immediately eliminating the student’s control over the outcome and judgment regarding what it ‘should’ be and what it ‘is’,” Mitchell says. “When delight in the unknown and acceptance of their own expression is apparent, tools of logical composition are introduced.” The objective is for students to learn to shift from intuition and logic simultaneously, which will enhance their development as doctors, she says.

The feedback that Mitchell receives from both students and medical faculty is extremely positive. The course was the highest rated humanities elective at Drexel University for the past two years, with this being its third year offering. Mitchell says that her students seem to enjoy the break from their intense medical curriculum and find that they have a better understanding of themselves and others after taking the class.

Mitchell recently had her seventh solo exhibition at the Rosenfeld Gallery in Philadelphia where she has been represented for the past 15 years. Other recent acquisitions of her work include Capital Health in Hopewell, N.J., Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center in New York and Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia.

To find out more about Marianne Mitchell please visit her website.

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