The Art of Listening

Students at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston are trained in many disciplines designed to further medical knowledge. A recent addition is a unique class that's as much about art as it is science. Houston Public Radio's Paul Pendergraft has more on the class called "The Art of Listening."

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A hospital is filled with sound…..much of which is little more than background noise, but some of that noise can determine life itself.

Teaching medical students how to fine tune their hearing is the focus of a new class at UT Med. School.

Dr. Alberto Puig is an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at UT and he teaches the class.

"I'm trying to get the students to be truly discerning listeners. I'm trying to get the students to realize the diagnosis is going to be made by he who's able to tune out the crap. He who's actually abe to differentiate between very small differences in pitch. This is the art of medicine. This is the part that is going to make a difference in whether they are a good physician and a great physician."

Assisting Dr. Puig is 2nd year med. student Joe Schlesinger. He's a jazz musician with a degree from Loyola and it was actually his idea to create the class and he is using music to help fine tune the ears of fellow students.

"Think of when you go to the symphony and there's a concerto. You can hear the violinist above every other symphony member. It's not because they're miced more than every other symphony member. It's because we train our ears to pay attention to them. We visually see them in front of us so we train our ears to detect their playing. In patient care, you have nurses, you have people running around...you have other people speaking.....the beeping of the machines and so we need to try and tune that out. So if we can kinda listen to those clues which are present, we can really impove diagnosis."

"Throughout the course, I've seen students go from not understanding music to really enjoying the symphony...to paying attention and seeing their reaction when they finally did hear the aortic stenosis or the split S2 and to see that sense of discovery makes Dr. Puig and myself feel like we really did our job. And since I am a current medical student, these are people I work with that we can change the face of medicine."

Paul Pendergraft, Houston Public Radio News

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Paul Pendergraft

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Paul Pendergraft is KUHF-Houston Public Radio’s Senior Producer for News & Public Affairs...