I remember walking into my patient’s apartment for the first time. When I turned away from the door, I saw rows of pictures of smiling faces that all seemed to share the same mischievous twinkle in their eyes and noses that were suspiciously reminiscent of the button nose on the woman who stood before me. I couldn’t help but smile too as my patient walked my classmates and me through each of the pictures. She explained how the wall on the left was filled with her children and the wall on the right was filled with all her grandchildren that she felt so blessed to have. Seeing how deeply she valued family, I wanted to incorporate a tree into my drawing, to represent the continuity of family across generations and the lives connected through each root and each branch.
On our third visit, we were joined by a surprise guest: her two-year-old grandson. We waved and gushed at his undeniable sweetness. I never expected her to tell us that he would likely not live beyond four years old because he had suffered trauma in the womb. She told us that she never complained about babysitting for her daughter because every extra moment she spent with her grandson was one that she wanted to cherish. I watched as she picked him up and pressed her forehead against his, eyes closing as their noses nearly touched, with him gazing upwards at her. Throughout this year, this is one of the moments that I found myself continuously coming back to and this is the embrace that I hoped to capture in my project.
About the Artist: Michelle Tang
Art has been on my mind and a part of my life for as long as I can remember. For me, it is the greatest form of self-care. I began playing the violin and piano when I was 6 years old and whenever there was a free moment, I was singing.
I always wondered how music and art manage to remain such a powerful universal language. Spoken language alone cannot adequately convey the many nuances of human experience and human connection, but the creative arts can. I have often thought about how I can better empathize with my patients in the future, how I can best honor their narratives and share their stories. While I can never truly know how a patient suffers, art has given me the tools to connect with those around me, both familiar and new, young and old.
Apart from music, I recently started sketching and drawing, mostly doodles here and there, and I wanted to further explore these mediums. I chose to join SCOPES because I wanted to create a physical representation of my first (of what I hope to be many) longitudinal patient experience(s) in medical school. I envisioned making something that I could look back on years down the line and remember the story it represents.
I have seen the healing power of art in my own life and in those around me, how it fosters a unique sense of awareness, how it builds connections on the individual level and beyond, and how strongly it influences our interactions and perceptions. No matter where medicine takes me, I want to bring my art with me.