June 2019


Bridging the humanities and medicine

by Liz Hillman EyeWorld Senior Staff Writer

Dr. de Luise in October 2012 before a performance of the Mozart Requiem at St. Bart’s in New York


Vincent de Luise, MD, comes from an Italian family so for him, music and art were an early part of his life.
“Opera and Neapolitan songs on my father’s turntable, paintings on every wall, frequent summer trips to Italy and its glorious museums and architecture, museum trips and Lincoln Center music events in NYC,” he listed.
It turns out that medicine was a family affair as well.
“My father, three uncles, and grandfathers were physicians,” Dr. de Luise said. But he didn’t initially think he would follow in their footsteps. “When I entered Princeton University as an undergraduate, my sights were set on a career as an astrophysicist.”
Summers spent in the departments of pathology and nuclear medicine at a New York community hospital is what changed his mind. He initially planned to enter cardiology, but an elective rotation in ophthalmology spurred a new interest.
Though his higher education and career took a more scientific route, Dr. de Luise, who started playing clarinet in the fifth grade, continued his education and interest in the arts and humanities. He took art courses while at Princeton, where he was also president of the symphonic and marching band. At Weill Cornell Medical College, he continued practicing clarinet and played occasionally with the Doctor’s Symphony. Even throughout internship, residency, and fellowship, Dr. de Luise took lessons from clarinetists in symphonies in those cities.
In practice, Dr. de Luise said he would listen to classical music—Mozart, Vivaldi, Haydn, and Beethoven—during cataract and corneal surgery.
“This type of music allowed me to focus and it calmed down the patients,” he said.
An interest in humanities is something he thinks all physicians should foster.
“Having compassion and empathy and being an authentic caregiver are absolute and essential qualities of a physician,” he said. “I strongly believe that the humanities should inform every physician’s life and practice. I think that a curriculum of humanism can help ‘immunize’ physicians from the stresses and burnout that have become endemic to various degrees in all fields of medicine.”
In 2013, Dr. de Luise completed a fellowship at Harvard University where he curated “The Course in Compassion,” a curriculum in what he described as “caring and empathy for medical schools through the humanities.” The curriculum includes sensory and motor skills in art, music, dance and movement, writing, meditation, and compassion training, Dr. de Luise said.
Around this time, Dr. de Luise also began formally writing in the humanities. He published an essay about his father’s loss of cognition to Alzheimer’s disease, program notes for the Opera Brooklyn and Connecticut Lyric Opera productions, and he began a blog. He has written articles on visual neuroscience and the humanities in the Hektoen International Journal of Medical Humanities, in addition to serving as a pre-concert speaker and program annotator for the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra and the Weill Cornell Medical College Music and Medicine Orchestra.
“The blog, A Musical Vision, is an archive of essays and published articles in the humanities, serving as a resource to readers who wish to delve deeper into these topics,” Dr. de Luise said. It incorporates ophthalmology and visual science, music, art, and perception that Dr. de Luise has written as program notes, published articles, or essays on various social media platforms.
Dr. de Luise hopes to bring some key aspects of the neuroscience of beauty and perception—principles that have been consciously or subconsciously articulated and embedded in art, sculpture, and architecture—to EyeWorld readers on a regular basis.
“My goal in bringing some of these humanities findings to EyeWorld, with a regular series of pictorial images and short-form essays, is to highlight fascinating domains at the intersection of art and visual perception, and to provide EyeWorld readers with a visual respite of beauty and reflection amid all the exciting technology and science articles that drive forward the wondrous field of ophthalmology,” Dr. de Luise said.

About the doctor

Vincent de Luise, MD
Assistant clinical professor of ophthalmology
Yale University School of Medicine
New Haven, Connecticut

Contact information

de Luise
: vdeluisemd@gmail.com

You’ll find some of Dr. de Luise’s insights on the intersection of art and medicine in the Outside the OR section in future issues of EyeWorld. His perspectives are also featured on his blog, amusicalvision.blogspot.com.

Bridging the humanities and medicine Bridging the humanities and medicine
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