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How Jazz Helps Doctors Listen

There is a growing momentum in medical education to make doctors aware that they not only take the patient’s history, but, much more meaningfully, must listen to his or her stories about why they came to a doctor. Too often a physician makes a diagnosis quickly, based on past experiences with that condition and certain stereotypes of the illness. A leading medical educator and practicing physician, Dr. Paul Haidet, is pioneering the use of jazz to teach medical students and doctors how jazz musicians, as they improvise, listen deeply to one another’s stories.

Haidet, a longtime jazz listener-he was a jazz disc jockey in college-quotes in his essay “Jazz and the ‘Art’ of Medicine: Improvisation in the Medical Encounter,” what McCoy Tyner said of Roy Haynes: “The thing that sets Roy apart from other musicians is that he listens so well. He teaches you to listen carefully and to respond accordingly-to put things in perspective, not simply go out for yourself.”

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