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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 64-67

Life in unexpected places: Employing visual thinking strategies in global health training

1 Health Sciences Centre, Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL, Canada
2 Division of Community Health and Humanities, Faculty of Medicine, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, NL, Canada
3 Department of Family Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

Correspondence Address:
Monica Kidd
Family Medicine Teaching Clinic, South Health Campus, 4448, Front Street SE, Calgary Alberta T3M 1M4
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1357-6283.210511

Background: The desire to make meaning out of images, metaphor, and other representations indicates higher-order cognitive skills that can be difficult to teach, especially in the complex and unfamiliar environments like those encountered in many global health experiences. Because reflecting on art can help develop medical students' imaginative and interpretive skills, we used visual thinking strategies (VTS) during an immersive 4-week global health elective for medical students to help them construct new understanding of the social determinants of health in a low-resource setting. We were aware of no previous formal efforts to use art in global health training. Methods: We assembled a group of eight medical students in front of a street mural in Kathmandu and used VTS methods to interpret the scene with respect to the social determinants of health. We recorded and transcribed the conversation and conducted a thematic analysis of student responses. Results: Students shared observations about the mural in a supportive, nonjudgmental fashion. Two main themes emerged from their observations: those of human-environment interactions (specifically community dynamics, subsistence land use, resources, and health) and entrapment/control, particularly relating to expectations of, and demands on, women in traditional farming communities. They used the images as well as their experience in Nepali communities to consolidate complex community health concepts. Discussion: VTS helped students articulate their deepening understanding of the social determinants of health in Nepal, suggesting that reflection on visual art can help learners apply, analyze, and evaluate complex concepts in global health. We demonstrate the relevance of drawing upon many aspects of cultural learning, regarding art as a kind of text that holds valuable information. These findings may help provide innovative opportunities for teaching and evaluating global health training in the future.

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