A Movement to Awareness

This work combines classic acrylic paint on canvas with a QR code for a digital enhancement of the painting’s message. This piece includes a portrait of the subject with a QR code that relates to her story. My patient has been living with ankylosing spondylitis all her life and is passionate about raising awareness of the disease. Starting with psoriatic arthritis at birth and symptoms of hand arthritis at age four, we discussed extensively how the physical manifestations of her disease shaped her upbringing, ability to work, and relationships with her daughter and family. Moreover, as a black woman experiencing years of chronic pain at a young age, my patient’s struggle to obtain the correct diagnosis and treatment was prolonged for years. Ankylosing spondylitis is commonly considered a disease that affects white men of middle age, and thus the correct diagnosis for her condition was overlooked. We intended this piece to show a new face to the disease, to raise awareness for others living with a potentially disabling disease, and to advocate for evidence-based diagnoses over assumptions based on age, race, and sex.

About the Artist: Samantha Avila

I have always appreciated the talent and creativity that arises from painting. I am a second-year medical student at Duke and joined the SCOPES program to explore the meaning of an illness from a creative perspective. Acrylic painting is entirely new to me and I chose this medium to step out of my comfort zone and to collaborate with my patient. I have found painting to be a very calming, creative process and I believe my collaboration with my patient has helped us both attain a mutual understanding. As a medical student, I hope to continue experiencing the intricate connections between a patient’s experience of a disease and the positive impact physicians may contribute as advocates.