My attention swung back and forth between my mom, my screen and the pairs of eyes periodically peering into the hospital room. I focused on the next question on my screen. Another patient had expired as if they were a carton of milk left too long in the fridge.
Simply put, the humanities seek to capture the mosaic of human existence across the chasms of jubilation and despair, life and death, love and fear. The humanities are both disciplines of academic study and modes of expression.
Screams. Tears. Despair. / A sense of sadness in the atmosphere.
Every medical student has felt apprehensive about facing death at some point, right? Maybe you have experienced someone dying before, or maybe it is something you have never seen and only rarely contemplated. Regardless, there is a subtle tension lurking during your first two years of pre-clinical studies, during which disease and death are intellectualized and abstract. Then clerkships start.
Nita Chen, MD, movement disorders fellow at the Normal Fixel Institute for Neurological Disease, contributes this graphic medicine piece as a former in-Training writer, editor, columnist and featured artist for our print book in-Training: Stories from Tomorrow’s Physicians, Volume 2.
In early spring, amid the earlier quarantines, I watched dandelions grow outside my window. At first, subtly and hidden among the blades of grass. Then budding, bursting yellow amid green galaxies. These tiny suns danced in April’s wind and their scent carried morning’s dew and earth-like warmth into midday, until the smells of grills and barbecues took stage.
We put out this call for visual artwork several months ago, to gauge our communities’ interest and willingness to embrace a new medium of expression on our website. We asked artists to submit with their work an artist’s statement to reflect on what prompted their creating their work and how their art reflects on their experiences in medicine.
This drawing depicts the stark contrast of a woman who is both strong, yet visibly vulnerable as her tears pour off the page. This piece was inspired by a patient who was admitted after an incidental finding of a lab abnormality, which forced her to stay in the hospital for four weeks. When she initially learned of her lab results, she was overwhelmed.
This work is about vulnerability and the feeling of being vulnerable. There is a special exposure to vulnerability for everyone who is taking part in healthcare systems, be it of course as a patient who potentially suffers restrictions in their physical and/or psychic integrity trough illness or also the caregivers who are under pressure to be attentive, know the right things, act and speak properly all the time.
This painting, utilizing oil and acrylic paints, was made in the midst of studying for my ongoing classes and boards. There have been a couple diseases that have stuck with me throughout my studies. This disease is a deep-sea themed illustration of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, more commonly known as “broken heart syndrome.”
This piece was created during Inktober 2021 for the prompt “Disgusting.” I believe that beauty can be found in even the most unexpected places, which is why I decided to contrast the beauty of the feminine form with organs spewing out of her body.
Medicine is beautiful and interesting, but it can also be challenging in many ways. As medical students, we are expected to work hard, test well, be professional and likeable. These expectations throughout medical school can foster emotions like guilt, stress and the feeling of never being enough.