I painted “Heart Beat,” the artwork on the cover of this issue, as part of a medical school humanities course titled “Impressionism and the Art of Communication.”
Medical students spend the majority of their clinical years either in the hospital or studying, with little room for activities outside of medicine. The humanities course, a required part of the fourth-year curriculum at my school, asks students to take a step back from medicine and look at other fields—whether painting, jazz, or comic book illustrations—and find ways to tie them back into our medical experience. In the Impressionism course that I chose, we spent a month discussing what we, as future physicians, could learn from the Impressionism style of painting and how we could apply it to medicine to improve patient communication. As part of our final project, we were asked to create a painting reflective of our medical school experience.
My painting illustrates my experience with music and medical school. I have played piano from a young age, but I largely abandoned the hobby during medical school. While I would practice during my short, two-week breaks at home, I would again neglect playing music when I returned to class and clinical rotations. The thought of purchasing a keyboard never occurred to me—in my mind, school was for studying, while coming home for break was for catching up on hobbies.
Creating this painting for my humanities course was an act of self-reflection, forcing me to consider why I had neglected playing piano. “Heart Beat” is a reminder to myself that the artificial separation I had created wasn’t necessary; being fulfilled by my personal life is as valuable, if not more so, than professional success. The arteries depict some of my favorite songs—from left to right, they are Debussy’s “Clair de lune,” Chopin’s “Raindrop Prelude,” Tchaikovsky’s “June,” and Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag.” As I enter residency, I hope to make an active effort to find time to practice these songs and learn some new ones.