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Dec 12, 2010

Art and Medicine

Few years ago when I was looking up information to write my personal statement to apply to medical schools, I had found this interview of Dr. Therese Southgate, Senior Contributing Editor of JAMA. I recently found it again and would like to share it...
Essentially I think every field is related to one another. Left and Right brain must be used equally. Society in early days worked to become more and more specialized to the extent that today a neurosurgeon has no idea what the orthopedic surgeon's job is. Specialization is needed for best performance, though it is also necessary to have people who are able to bring things together. Our job today has become to incorporate and merge all these fields that were separated so long ago such as Dentistry and Medicine. Same way looking at two extreme sides of the spectrum Art and Medicine are very much alike. Dr. Southgate was a journalist till 28, then decided to pursue medicine for the rest of her life. 
Here is what she has to say...
Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic) by: Thomas Eakins

The question I have been most frequently asked during my years with the JAMA covers is: "Why art on the cover of a medical journal? What has medicine to do with art?"
Let's look at what medicine and art have in common:
First, they share a common goal: to complete what nature has not.
Second, they have a common substrate, the physical, visible world of matter.
More significant, however, are the similar qualities of mind, body, and spirit demanded of the practitioners of each, painter and physician.
Chief among them is an eye: the ability not only to observe, but to observe keenly -- to ferret out the tiny detail from the jumble of facts, lines, colors -- the tiny detail that unlocks a painting or a patient's predicament.
Observation demands attention, and this is the key to both art and medicine. Attention is nothing more than a state of receptiveness toward its object, the artist to nature, the viewer to the work of art, the physician to the patient. It is no accident, I believe, that clinicians -- or treating physicians, as they are often called -- are referred to as "attending physicians." "Attention" and "attend" are both derived from the same Latin root meaning "to stretch toward."
Many more "affinities" exist between medicine and the visual arts, but I will close with just one: Medicine is itself an art. It is an art of doing, and if that is so, it must employ the finest tools available -- not just the finest in science and technology, but the finest in the knowledge, skills, and character of the physician. Truly, medicine, like art, is a calling.
And so I return to the question I asked at the beginning. What has medicine to do with art?
I answer: Everything.
That's my opinion. I am Dr. Therese Southgate, Senior Contributing Editor of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).

1 comment:

laura said...

The idea of graduating and having to specialize in one thing scares me because I want to do everything. This was very reassuring.

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