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Artist’s Statement: First Position

Yuan, Kelley

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000001973
Cover Art

K. Yuan is a third-year student, Penn State–Jefferson Premedical–Medical Program, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania; e-mail:

In the face of lost battles, long hours, and daunting challenges in medicine, it is easy to overlook the happy endings and the leaps in progress. In many cases, the doctor and patient are both blips in each other’s lives—the patient is merely another name on the rounding list; the doctor and the hospital are nothing more than an interruption in the patient’s daily routine. At the hospital, two worlds brush paths and then cleanly separate after treatment.

As a first-year medical student accustomed to poring over textbooks and diagrams, I often forgot about the impact I could one day have on someone else’s life. Instead of meeting patients and learning more about their lives, I found myself cloistered behind a barrier of books, isolated from the very people whose stories had drawn me to medicine in the first place. But, a small peek beyond the library and hospital walls reminded me that the efforts of doctors make all the difference.

I caught a glimpse of the scene that inspired this month’s cover art, “First Position,” when I was in a ballet studio one snowy night. After a long day of reviewing notes, I dragged my feet into the nearby studio to stay warm while waiting for the bus home. The ballerinas twirled in time to a symphony and the soft “one, two, three” of a teacher’s voice. Of all the girls there, the one most enraptured by the music and most lithe in her movements sported a prosthetic hand. Hours and hours of practice showed in the coordination of her wrists and the deliberate grace of her steps. As the ballerinas’ choreography ended with a poised slide into first position, she flashed a small grin at me.

The little girl I saw that night was able to pursue her passion for dancing and inspire others with her prosthetic limb. Her performance and smile captured the unapologetically human side of medicine that I nearly forgot existed. She lifted my hopes and reinvigorated the “why” behind my pursuit of medicine.

Copyright © 2017 by the Association of American Medical Colleges