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A Budding Surgeon on "Dispelling the Mystery of Medicine"

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A Painting by Lizz Card

This is part of the Medical Humanities Series on Op-Med, which showcases creative work by our members. Do you have a poem, short story, creative nonfiction or visual art piece related to medicine that you’d like to share with the community? Send it to us here.

Mahosot Surgery II, oil on canvas, 20” x 26”, April 2015.

On the inspiration for this piece

This piece was inspired by my time spent at Mahosot Hospital, a public hospital in the capital city of Vientiane, Laos. There I shadowed both Lao and foreign physicians, including teams specializing in burn reconstruction and maxillofacial surgery. Foreign teams performed surgeries with Lao health professionals and worked with educators to build a surgical curriculum. The warm colors in this painting draw the viewer’s eye to the focused expressions of the two surgeons, emphasizing the binational collaboration of the surgery and the universal need for health care that traverses linguistic and geographical divides. Dr. Chris Lowry captured the photo used for the painting.

On painting and medicine

I have been painting ever since I could mush finger paint around on paper. I studied art formally in high school and college, and informally from my grandmother. Painting has been a way for me to contemplate my world and express the beauty I see around me. It has certainly informed my decision to pursue a biological field. People and animals have always been my muses and my interest in living form has been amplified through reflection on canvas. Now that I am in medicine, I have the privilege to be exposed to human experience through disease and healing, and it is my goal to continue to make these scenes available to the public through painting.

On the power of art in medicine

Humans are visual beings, dominated by our sense of sight. Visual art is a powerful tool of communication that speaks no matter a person’s language. It has the ability to convey a message with a glance that an article would need pages to explain. Medicine itself is a field that is often shrouded with mystery, only sensical after years of education or cloaked in bundles of misinformation from the Internet. I think art has the power to communicate with society, dispelling the mystery of medicine and showing the beauty.

Lizz Card is a third year medical student at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. Originally from Minnesota, she grew attached to the East Coast after earning a BS in Biology from Tufts University. She is planning to apply to residency in plastic and reconstructive surgery and will take a year out next year to do research and train at Stream Studios, a medical illustration studio located at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Instagram: @lizzcardartist


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