The problem: Oral cancer has a 5-year survival rate of 86.3% for early stages or localized disease according to the surveillance epidemiology and end results (SEER). However, the 5-year survival rate drops to 69.0 and 40.4% for late stages (i.e: stages III and IV). Most patients (72.2%) present at later stages according to SEER. Routine screening for oral cancer then merits attention.

Dentists and primary healthcare physicians (PHCPs) can help with opportunistic screening. However, this requires a behavioral change as well as the implementation of the 5-minute head and neck exam into practice.

The audience and their behavior: The traditional methods of encouraging them to incorporate the 5-minute exam have yielded no discernible results. They, however, value aesthetics and art; so I thought a museum experience would be a great starting point to establish and mirror this connection.

Technological/spatial/installation approach: I propose a virtual, immersive experience with four multilayered approaches: (1) introduction to the art world and art history, (2) meaning-making of the artwork, (3) knowledge production related to making inferences that depict signs and symptoms and social conditions of diseases, and (4) eliciting behavioral change insofar as it gives dentists the impetus to incorporate the 5-minute head and neck exam. At the end of the experience, I’d like to include a virtual reality station to demonstrate how the head and neck exam can be performed, addressing one of the barriers that prevent general dentists from performing the exam.

Potential museum collaborators: MFA offers a wide variety of paintings that can be used to learn about art and also function as a good storytelling medium to discuss medical conditions. The VR experience can be found at the MIT museum.

Skill sets needed: curation, pedagogical structuring, programming skills, and VR-related experience.

Reference: National Cancer Institute: The Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results. Cancer Stat Facts: Oral Cavity and Pharynx Cancer.; 2022