By that we don’t mean smoothing out their bedside manner. We mean “will they become better physicians or researchers if they paint, draw, and sculpt?” Rhode Island Creative Magazine recently spoke with Sam Klein, the founder and co-curator of the Alpert Medical School Art
Council who thinks that is just what might happen.
Sam: "When I was a 2nd year student, I decided that I wanted to show the community that beyond merely being interested in the sciences and the practice of medicine, medical students are a much more well-rounded group. To my knowledge, medical students have never been solicited previously for their artwork. There had been some day-long humanities courses during the 1st or 2nd year of the curriculum, such as modeling with clay or art museum trips, to help the med students think “outside-the-box,” to approach problem-solving from a different perspective, and to see if the students’ attention to detail would change after such an experience.
"But up until 2013, there hadn’t been an art gallery dedicated solely to med students’ artwork. I also wanted to bring a little more life to the building. The activities here are sometimes a little static. We study, we sit in small groups and listen to lectures. I thought that if we put something different on the walls, it might change how the students think about their studies, break some paradigms, let them think more creatively about what they are doing. I think there are several elements at work here: first, for the artist, they had to make their artwork match one of the themes we devised, such as Gravity and Weightlessness, Partitions or Breakdown. The artists benefit from creative expression. In the process of creative expression, they had to think about what they were about to showcase in a variety of different lights; think about a problem and how they wanted to express it to communicate that idea. In addition, those who are viewing that artwork (the students) may be undergoing a similar process. They are seeing artwork in a medical building; maybe that changes the way they think about medicine. In some cases, the artwork is directly applicable and topically connected to medicine, for example an anatomical sketch. But some of (the art) is different, some are landscapes, some are more abstract, so I think there are many different levels from which you could view this artwork. The goal of this exhibit is to provide a vehicle for provocative and creative thought here at the school.
“So after broaching the subject with some of my friends and classmates, gauging student support, being respectful of the school’s policies and policies, safety concerns about egress from the building, fire codes, and determining what liabilities, if any, would we be responsible for, we took about six months to make a proposal for the gallery to the student senate and the administration. They were very supportive. We then solicited art work from the medical community. We received submissions from faculty, staff, and even from some alumni. We formed an art council, a group of 10 or 12 students. They convened and voted on the pieces, worked feverishly to make this all possible, and [they] deserve a ton of credit for that. After getting approval from the administration, we went into production process; printing and framing for photography, sketches, and getting pedestals for the sculpture and glassworks. That process took about a month, and we installed within 2-3 nights. We had a nice opening exhibit in May of this year (2015). What was especially meaningful was the community support; we had about 150-200 people that evening at the opening, but we also had musicians (other medical students) who were playing. So we were able to embrace the visual arts and music all at the same time.
“Because we had a very tight budget, we had to keep our marketing of the event to email and word of mouth. In the future, we plan to expand our submitting artists to other parts of the Brown community and invite the general public.” Kimberly, Founder of RICM seized this moment of opportunity for a collaboration to help bring more awareness to the new and unique gallery along with educating the use of art in the medical field. Sure enough, it was an idea that could not be refused. Together, Brown University and RICM brings you the 2nd Annual Arts Exhibition. Join us for an evening of inspiration and creative expression on March 11th from 6-9PM at the Alpert Medical School. And if you are of age, you can enjoy our popular local beer kindly sponsored by The Narragansett Brewing Company!
“So will all this mean we will make better doctors and researchers? It’s too early to tell. Only time will borne out my theory.”
A discussion with medical illustrator and 2nd year medical student, Gerald Hefferman.
RICM: "With all the digital medical illustrations available out there (on the web), why are you still doing your own illustrations for the book that you are collaborating on?"
“This project began when a friend of mine, who is a physical therapist, and a surgeon whom he works very closely with, decided to create a guide for the post-operative physical therapy of hip surgery patients. In that context, there was a serious lack of illustrations that were both helpful and easily available. In general, images that are “Rights free” are hard to get your hands on. If you are at an institution with deep pockets, it may be less of an issue to acquire good images. But for a clinician, particularly in private practice, whether you would be willing to pay the rights holders the amount necessary to have access to their libraries may be a much more difficult consideration.”
RICM: "So do you look at these illustrations, not from an interpretation point of view, but more from clarity of what the physical objects look like to help you with what… diagnoses or in describing to a patient what issues they are dealing with?"
“It depends on the circumstance. A major benefit of illustration to a clinician is as another tool to communicate with their patients in a way that can be more easily retained, particularly when even the best verbal description may still be difficult to understand. Alternatively, in the context of this book, which is for clinicians and physical therapists whose understanding of anatomy is strong but who may be less familiar with the specific surgical approaches used, more detailed illustrations can leverage the anatomical understanding they already have.”
by Joseph Shanksy
Please join us for an evening of inspiration and creative expression!
March 11, 2016 from 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Alpert Medical School
222 Richmond Street
Providence, RI 02903
Purchase tickets here