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Medicine as a performing art: a worthy metaphor


James O. Woolliscroft MD, University of Michigan Medical School, 1301 Catherine Street, 4101 Medical Science Building I, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109–0624, USA. Fax: 00 1 734 763 4936; E-mail:


Purpose  Despite numerous calls for reform over several decades, medical educators have been unable to address many significant challenges. Potentially, employing new metaphors and looking at the teaching and learning of medicine in a new way will facilitate the development of creative solutions.

Main findings  In this paper we propose the metaphor of medicine as a performing art. Building on this metaphor, string music education is compared to medical education.

Principal conclusions  Looking to string education as a model, suggestions for reorganisation of learning experiences, academic structure and assessment are discussed. Medical educators are encouraged to think about the challenges they face in creative ways. By looking outside traditional medical education, solutions may be found to new and old educational dilemmas.