Decoding the sound of silence

Friday, April 11, 2008

A recent report on health literacy from the Canadian Public Health Association found communication between doctors and patients wasn't as effective as it could be. Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Don Wright Faculty of Music are teaming up to provide medical students with ways to improve their lines of communication.

"The Sound of Silence: Developing Effective Patient Partnerships" is one of a series of lectures given by professors in Music and Medicine. On April 14, 5-6:30 p.m., in Dental Sciences room 2016, Dr. Terri Paul and Prof. James McKay will focus on listening and speaking with patients as equal partners.

McKay will illustrate the skills that musicians use playing in a small group to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Students from the Don Wright Faculty of Music will play from different locations in the room, altering eye contact and proximity to each other, to demonstrate how important the art of listening is for clinical methodology.

The session is open to all medical students, but is particularly good for first-year students who are in the middle of a unit on Advanced Interviewing in Clinical Skills.

Dr. Francis Chan, associate dean, admissions and student affairs for the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, said the medical faculty emphasizes the role of arts, humanities and social conditions in the training of medical students. "These subjects reflect the human conditions. It is an excellent idea to give our students an opportunity to gain and appreciate an understanding of these subjects so that they are better equipped to explore the human conditions beyond science and medical knowledge. What better training can there be than to train students to be good listeners?"

The inter-disciplinary approach applies skills and habits musicians develop over many years to health care practices. To perform, musicians must hone their ability to listen actively to the components of a work, and to the others in the group. From a medical perspective, the session will examine anatomy and physiology of listening, including the parts of the brain that take part in the process.