Share this article on:

Artist’s Statement: Empathirises

Chatwal, Monica

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e318280cb97
Cover Art

Ms. Chatwal is a fourth-year medical student, Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida; e-mail:

My true passion in preschool was coloring. While my classmates eagerly awaited the arrival of recess when they could escape to the outdoors, I could not wait for the crayons and coloring books to be brought out of the closet and the scent of wax to emanate through the room.

Along the way, science and medicine captivated my intellect. I always viewed art and medicine as a dichotomy, and constantly struggled to find time to devote to both. In my world of art, I was surrounded by tubes of half-used watercolors; in my world of medicine, I was surrounded by dozens of books. Art appeared to be governed by creative energies; medicine appeared to be driven by intellectual pursuits. After years of doing both separately, I discovered that the worlds of art and medicine overlap and intertwine—each displaying features of the other, and each relying on qualities of the other. Eventually, the lines of separation between them blurred.

This became most apparent during my clinical rotations and patient interactions. I finally had the opportunity to apply my artistic skills in the medical setting when presenting patients and capturing the essence of their clinical picture, creating a figurative painting of each. In this way, each piece of information I obtained remained not a loose fact or number but became enmeshed in a greater whole. I discovered that, far from what I had once believed, medicine is very much an art. Each day, we paint images of patients and their diseases as we follow their progress, adjust our practices, and present their cases to others. The end result may be magnificent or disheartening, but it is made up of the individual brushstrokes of our actions along the way.



I did not choose a career as an artist, but after pursuing my love of medicine I will soon proudly call myself a doctor. If I had never found joy in art while in preschool, never urged my parents to send me to art lessons, and never taken art courses in high school, I would be far from the person I am today. It is my passion for art that has inspired and shaped my passion for medicine. It has given me the balance that is required to succeed in this field—between knowledge of science and an appreciation for nature—and has ultimately given me a greater understanding of humanity. Medicine transcends art, providing me with the physical interaction and emotional bond I crave. It is to my benefit that I have found a way to intertwine the two. This colored pencil piece, entitled Empathirises, represents the intertwining of my two passions.

© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges