Skip to main content


Faculty Development Educational Seminar Series: The Unbearable Whiteness of Seeing (in Medicine): How Racist Legacy Structure Impacts the Core Clinical Art of Seeing Patients by Alexa Miller

by Alexa Miller, Arts Practica,Medical Education Consultancy

Event Information: This talk shares Alexa Miller’s research on clinical uncertainty: a critical crossroads for a clinician where their performance holds the potential either to yield the excellence of healing and discovery, or to entangle them with medicine’s systemic harm. After a brief overview of key challenges and opportunities of medical uncertainty, participants will engage in a visual-arts-based exercise that reveals key principles of excellence in clinical uncertainty. The final portion of the talk identifies key invisible influences that can sway performance in uncertainty, with a focus on the racism of the institutions in which we operate and the subjectivity of the white gaze to clinical pitfalls. Please join us to learn the basics of an observation-first approach to patients, recognize the infinite complexity of human dynamics, and how our core capacities as humans represent critical levers for equity in health.

Event details

Speaker: Alexa Miller

Alexa Miller is a leading voice for observation and inquiry practices in medicine, and for their cultivation in arts experiences. She is an original co-creator of Harvard Medical School’s Training the Eye: Improving the Art of Physical Diagnosis, a course that produced researched outcomes on the impact of arts experiences on medical student learning.

Driven by a strong personal interest in misdiagnosis and medical learning, Alexa is a current fellow with the Hermitage Artist Retreat, and recently served as a 2018- 2019 fellow with the Society for the Improvement of Diagnosis in Medicine. As a kid who was always drawing, a trained visual artist and arts educator, and an avid reader of the learning sciences, Alexa has been teaching medical learners and studying observation and critical thinking processes since 2003. Alexa’s consultancy, Arts Practica, offers arts-based workshops dedicated to nourishing the human intelligences of the healthcare workforce and the practices that support diagnostic safety, resilience, and effective team communication. Masterful at synthesizing medical wisdom from art, research, and personal stories, Alexa is known as a dynamic teacher, speaker, and workplace trainer who brings a fresh perspective on difficult issues in medicine while engaging audiences in spirited participation.

Alexa has taught undergraduate courses in Education at both Brandeis University and at Wellesley College, facilitated a weekly Lab Group in Yale School of Management’s Program in Interpersonal and Group Dynamics, and formerly served Curator of Education at the Davis Museum. She received her BA from Swarthmore College in Art History with extensive studies in Education and in African Studies, and her MA in Studio Painting from the Wimbledon School of Art where her artwork focused on human resilience and medical imagery. She is extensively trained in Visual Thinking Strategies protocols for facilitation and coaching and has completed courses at the Center for Women and Enterprise. She has received awards from the Creative Center for People with Cancer and the New England Museum Association. Most importantly, though: Alexa loves art. She loves how humans simply make it, knowing why or not. She loves how art persists over time, presenting big questions, echoing the paradoxes of human nature, and eliciting our core truths by way of the mouthpieces of humans everywhere. She particularly loves how it is only through the perspectives of other human beings that those meanings can be unlocked. It all begins with the choice to pause and look with a curious spirit. That same choice is the engine that drives care and leadership at its best: expert learning. Alexa’s career has been a quest to make the raw expert learning unlocked in art accessible in medicine, beginning with that choice to pause and look. Also, beyond all those meanings we find in art, there stands something greater. Alexa loves that, too: it’s the most important part of all.