Barriers

Barriers is a mixed media piece that captures the difficulties that previously incarcerated individuals face with respect to navigating the healthcare system. It displays an arm reaching for a prescription bottle, blocked by the navigational complexities and chronic stressors associated Continue reading Barriers

Beneath the Surface

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In this graphic design, I reflect on my experience in the Community Partners program, which pairs medical students with individuals in the local community with a chronic illness. I use the metaphor of a fisherman discovering an uncharted island to explore a physician’s interaction with a patient. The fisherman is depicted in conversation with the personified island, holding a lantern in search of landmarks—like the physician, in conversation with the patient, searching for answers toward a differential diagnosis. Inspired by conversations with the patient (“DC”) with whom I was paired, the beauty of this interaction comes from seeing that which is “beneath the surface”: a passion for number theory, an illustrious career in chemistry research, a loving marriage. These things defined and anchored the identity of DC throughout struggles with cancer, renal stones, and chronic back pain. I attempt to capture these aspects through mathematical engravings on the island’s subsurface body, a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer embedded within the ocean floor, and an anchor with a wedding ring looped onto it.

This piece underscores the importance of recognizing the person behind the veil of “patient”—understanding the rich tapestry of experiences and identities that define patients beyond the walls of a hospital. I reflect that my conversations with DC encourage me to exhibit curiosity toward future patients and what is meaningful to them at their core.

About the Artist: Mihir Patel

Mihir Patel is from Indianapolis, IN and is currently a second-year medical student at Duke School of Medicine. He is interested in pursuing a career in oncology and/or palliative care. Kindled by undergraduate experiences focused on the medical humanities, particularly graphic medicine, he has developed a passion for using art to capture illness experiences and nuances of the patient-physician interaction. In particular, he enjoys creating digital art, with a focus on using photo manipulation techniques to generate surrealistic or fantastical art with symbolic imagery.

No Luis Without June

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June

315,000+ dead.

You yearn to escape unscathed
as daylight erodes the bleakest night.
Vaccines on the horizon met with a foreign feeling-
Hope.

But it is too late. She is gone.
Empty promises of protection proved fallible
because even wildflowers wilt in the sun.

She died alone. A numbing statistic.

315,000+ dead.

Lauren Moore

Luis

385,000+ dead.

Suffocating grief.
A lifetime in color now gray memories
wondering when last they talked.
Could he sense when her breathing
stopped?

For what are wildflowers without bees?
What brings light to leafless trees?
There is no Luis without June.
And she is gone. So he left too.

Forevermore. A numbing statistic.

385,000+ dead.

Lauren Moore

Completing my first year of medical school during a pandemic, I had to learn to be adaptable. I have heard the word “Pivot” more times this year than I think many people might hear in a lifetime. The year was speckled with brief patient encounters, but I was unable to connect with a patient in a way that I felt I could represent their story with fidelity.

However, my first year was much smoother than that of my friend, an MS1 at Texas Christian University and University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine, Lauren Moore. Her story captivated my attention and helping her through the pandemic is something that I will take with me throughout my career, which is why I decided to dedicate my piece to the story of her grandparents.

June and Luis were the ideal couple, the healthcare heroes you hear about on the news. June was a labor and delivery nurse who enjoyed sewing, creating her art out of the experiences she carried with her. Luis was a physician who worked hard to develop new screening tests for prostate cancer. He loved spending time on long walks watching birds, taking in their intricate anatomy and how it compared to the human body he knew so well. Living out their years together, they appreciated the little things in life.

They died within three weeks of each other. Alone.

I worked with my friend to create a piece to capture the feelings she felt navigating the complex medical system while losing two grandparents in an instant. This is a companion piece to two poems she wrote, originally published in the Association of American Medical Colleges Creative Expressions During Times of Uncertainty series.

About the Artist: Braylee Grisel

I wanted to be an artist before I wanted to be a doctor. An animator specifically. Throughout undergrad, I worked as a graphic designer while completing a minor in general art. I love the freedom that art gives you to express emotions when the words just cannot suffice. As future physicians, we cannot afford to forget the human side of the work that we do. I believe that humanities and the arts help create a more ethical and conscientious physician workforce by ensuring that we always remember the powerful emotions that our patients deal with every day. I hope that as I grow in my career, I will never give up on the artistic self-reflection that has helped me explore my sense of humanity and become a more empathetic person. I appreciate SCOPES for providing a structure for students to explore their artistic expression and learn to truly hear and feel for our patients in a meaningful way.

More Than Just a Patient

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David Hockney is an English artist whose career gained traction in the late 1960s. Perhaps you’ve heard of him or are even familiar with his work – his most famous portrait, Pool with Two Figures, sold for $90 million dollars in 2018. If you’re someone like me, I had no idea who David Hockney was until I learned about him in a college art class. Prior to 2018, if you had asked me who David Hockney was my response would have been something along the lines of “Hockey? Like the game?”. But one day, in an undergraduate art class, I was presented with Hockney’s work and was simply blown away. This SCOPES piece is a tip of the hat (or should I say a tilt of the stethoscope?) to Hockney’s Pearblossom Hwy., a photo collage with a cubistic style.

 

Astute eyes will notice that this SCOPES piece, like Pearblossom Hwy., is also a photo collage. The subject of this piece is a patient that is very near and dear to my heart: my grandfather. My grandfather passed away this November, right before Thanksgiving. Because of COVID-19, I could not travel home and say goodbye, nor was I able to be with my family. Standing on the periphery as the eye of a great storm swept over my family, all I could really do was sit and listen. The catharsis of speech then, of simply reminiscing about who my grandfather had been, became our way of healing despite the long distance.

 

Like Pearblossom Hwy., my memories of my grandfather are sometimes sharp and in focus: picture a two- minute movie reel. Other times, memories of my grandfather are more staccato: a flash of a smile, a laugh, the smell of a sweater. In these instances, there’s no reel that plays, just glimpses of a person; smoke tendrils from a flame that has already gone out. So why did I choose to make my grandfather the subject of this piece? It is because though my grandfather was very sick and had a laundry list of medications, specialists, and appointments, he was more than just a patient. He was a son. He was a brother. He was a husband. He was a father. He was a stepfather. He was a grandfather. He was a great-grandfather. His life was complicated at times – I daresay a little messy – like most of ours. He had his likes and dislikes: a total introvert, he enjoyed reading, fixing up old cars, and befriending all the neighborhood strays. Though a bit crotchety around new people, animals surprisingly approached my grandfather like he was Snow White. Perhaps they correctly sensed that somewhere beneath his hard exterior, there was a kind and gentle spirit.

 

As future physicians, we must cherish the opportunity we have to take a step into our patient’s lives. Though it is tempting to focus on the patient in the moment, we must learn to see past the hospital gown and beeping monitors. Like the subject of this piece, our patients have lived rich lives leading up to their encounters with us and will continue to do so long after we depart. You have the power to make a positive impact on another person’s life and their loved ones. I encourage you to find out what’s important to them, whether it’s taking the dog for a walk or being able to work in their garage. Do not place their quality of life on the back-burner. It only takes a little time to learn about the lives of your patients, but it can make all the difference. I know for my grandfather it did. Together we can redefine the doctor-patient relationship as one person helping another.

This work consists of two pieces: a photo collage and an essay. The subject of this work is a patient who is very near and dear to my heart: my grandfather. Titled “More Than Just a Patient” this work explores the idea that when providers interact with patients in the hospital, they are seeing just a snapshot of a person’s life. Though it is tempting for a provider to focus purely on the illness timeline (i.e. When did this start? How long have you been experiencing X,Y,Z?), this can lead to overlooking who the patient really is. The purpose of this piece is to encourage the viewer to ponder the amazing opportunity we have to touch the web of another person’s life and how our actions – good or bad – can influence the quality of their life even after they leave the hospital.

About the Artist: Danielle Burner

I am a second year MD-PhD student here at Duke. I chose to participate in SCOPES because I enjoy medicine and art, and was excited to find an activity that blended the two. This piece is dedicated to my grandfather, Robert Horn, who passed away in November 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was not able to travel home during his passing to say goodbye. This piece is my way of celebrating his life and commemorating his spirit.

A Movement to Awareness

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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.

 

Jim

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This series of three drawings is titled Jim. It is inspired by my many conversations with my community partner, Jim.

Throughout his life, little has stopped Jim from achieving his goals. He started college at the early age of 16, balanced working full-time while going to night school, earned a doctorate in material engineering, and raised a loving family.

Over the past several years, Jim began experiencing vision loss that is incurable, untreatable, and progressing. In many ways his life has changed, but his spirit and drive have not. Despite his vision loss, Jim is an avid writer of poetry, runs a local trivia group, and is unmatched on the dance floor. In his own words, “you don’t need eyesight to dance.”

This series of drawings captures Jim’s happy and determined attitude towards life, gives insight into how he sees the world, and highlights one of his favorite quotes from literature.

About the Artist: Steven Zheng

Studio art has always played a large role in my life; however, as I have progressed on a path towards medicine, it has been increasingly difficult to explore my love of the humanities. One of my goals has been to find bridges between the worlds of art and medicine and to carve out a role for a physician-artist. SCOPES provided a perfect opportunity to explore these interests and utilize artistic creativity and observational skills to tell a patient’s story. As I continue with my medical education, I hope to expand on my SCOPES experience and further examine the connections between humanities and medicine.

Kure Beach

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I had a phenomenal experience getting to know my patient. We talked about his life and experiences with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). After having a bone marrow transplant 15 years ago, he has been experiencing many chronic symptoms and effects of the illness. We held many of our calls from his apartment at the beach, a very special place for him and his family. I found out that he was well-versed with computers and had worked on one of the very first electronic health record systems, which I thought was very cool. This project is a mixed media design consisting of four textured panels. They are different views of my patient’s home at the beach at various scales, composed using mapping software. Through this work, I wanted to capture the multidimensional nature of healing when faced with a chronic illness, centered around a location of relaxation and togetherness. The various scales represent how perspectives on illness can appear so differently on a day-to-day scale, versus weeks, months, or even decades.

About the Artist: Harvey Shi

I have been fascinated with visual art since I was a kid. My father, an artist, helped teach me the fundamentals of drawing and 2D design. I started out drawing with paper and pencil. During middle school and high school, I experimented with charcoal on paper and with 3D modeling. In college, I worked on several 3D printing projects and laser-cut wood sculptures. Recently, I have been learning how to do digital painting using a drawing tablet. For me, producing art is a calming and transformative process. I find joy in experimenting with different art media and seeing the myriad interpretations that a piece can evoke. I am excited to see all the wonderful works that my SCOPES peers have produced!

Reflective Peace

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Reflective Peace, is inspired by J, a man who is living with HIV. When I first met him, J was a pleasant and charming man who explained how his diagnosis and the fear of the disease led to a life filled with love, peace, and joy. When J found out he was HIV positive, it was the mid-1980s — the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Due to limited understanding of the disease, J felt that he had received his death sentence. As a member of the LGBTQ community, J had seen what the disease had done to his friend and how his friend’s death had affected others. J decided to retreat to a rural town in North Carolina to die alone. He soon realized that he was not going to die immediately from this disease. He decided to forge a new life for himself in the town. He began working at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where he maintained the outdoor center and taught water sports. This job allowed him to be outdoors, use his hands, and develop relationships with others. For J, this was a rejuvenating and transformative period of his life because it allowed him to feel hope and peace. He felt stronger and healthier during this period. He came out to his friends at the Outdoor Center, and they accepted him despite the less accepting surrounding community. The fear of death faded away and was replaced with feelings of love and excitement for the future. Now, J is older and grappling with the effects of aging and prolonged medical therapy. He has developed chronic pain in his feet that limits his ability to travel and be active. Despite the frustration he feels, J still remains hopeful and content through using other coping mechanisms for his pain. He meditates often to center himself and disassociate from the pain. Meditation is also an expression of spirituality and faith for J that allows him to feel a connection to God and life outside of the pain.

Reflective Peace is paintings that aim to symbolize the coping mechanisms my patient uses to deal with the hardships of his life. Both paintings take creative inspiration from the artist Steven Castillo, who uses acrylic pour as the foundation of his paintings. I wanted to use acrylic pour because it reminds me of the unpredictable ways life unfolds. I chose to paint the lotus position and hands to celebrate the way J came to terms with his diagnosis and chronic pain.

About the Artist: Jennifer Okunbor

My name is Jennifer Okunbor, and I have always engaged in the arts since I was a little girl. Art has been an outlet for me to express my emotions and perspective. I appreciate the opportunity to transform a medical narrative into a visual piece that evokes emotion and reflection. I believe that medicine is imbued with opportunities for creativity and moments to reflect on life and health. I love seeing the intersection between the arts and sciences, and I appreciate SCOPES for challenging me to create an intersection.

Connections

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This has been a hard year. Through a 13-inch computer screen, unstable internet, blue hospital-issued masks, and uncomfortable plastic face shields, we were tasked with learning how to connect with patients and understand their stories, ironic given we were struggling to connect even with friends we knew well.

Just as COVID restrictions were beginning to lift, my community partner sat across from me outside the hospital, still distanced but vaccinated and mask-less, a first. We talked for hours, grateful for connection after a year of disconnection. He jumped between times in his life, telling stories of the old tobacco town he grew up in, the students who lived in the dorm he oversaw, and the friends who along the way became family. Caught up in these stories, he barely mentioned his double hip replacement as the conversation was near the end. It seemed as though this detail of his life he had almost forgotten. I left that conversation thinking that his life is, as most lives are, really just a collection of connections.

This piece, “Connections,” is a reflection on our conversation that day.

About the Artist: Margaret Weber

I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA and attended Middlebury College where I studied Molecular Biology and Studio Art, taking classes in printmaking, ceramics, painting, and drawing. I worked for two years as a researcher and now am a first-year medical student in the MD-PhD program at Duke. Outside of school, I spend my time hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, painting by the Eno, or playing with my puppy, Monty!

Living with Color

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Almost two decades ago, my community partner was diagnosed with HIV. Although his journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing, I have been consistently stunned by his beautifully optimistic outlook on life. At first, given what little I had known about HIV/AIDS patients, I was looking for a sad story, a dark past to share, but I found none. My community partner lived life fully and considered his illness simply a “low hum” in the background. His story was a lesson to me about the manifold ways an illness can manifest, as well as the manifold ways we can choose to live with our illnesses.

With bright patches of color pencil contrasting with dark charcoal, my artwork is meant to depict my community partner’s almost infectious positivity despite being diagnosed with what many consider a life-changing disease. The alternating colorful patterns across this portrait are inspired by the style of graphic artist Minjae Lee. Ultimately my piece is a representation of the lessons that my community partner’s story imparted to me, as well as a statement on the myth that “HIV is a death sentence.”

About the Artist: Linda Li

Although from a young age I loved to dabble in anything involving a pencil or brush, I always put my tools aside to follow instead the more traditional path of studying the sciences. In college, I rediscovered my love for the arts in its many forms as a creative outlet for my four-year rollercoaster of emotions. I ended up tacking on a second major of creative writing (my favorite art form) to my biology major, and probably would have tacked on more arts majors if I could have! Now as a rising second-year medical student, and a fledgling devotee of the medical humanities and of narrative medicine, I hope to intertwine the arts and medicine to construct my understanding of the human condition. My art and my writing seek to tell the stories of my patients, as a reminder of my true purpose in pursuing a medical career. For this reason, I took on a SCOPES project, as the first of what I hope to be many tributes to the narratives I will have the privilege of listening to and witnessing.

Arthron

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Meeting with my patient felt more like meeting a close family friend. She shared with me a vulnerability and strength that couldn’t be described in words. This art piece was inspired by a question I asked her: what do we as future doctors need to know? In her lifelong journey with rheumatoid arthritis, she came across many different kinds of physicians from all walks of life. Her biggest advice to us as future physicians of patients with chronic illnesses was to listen. No one knows more about their condition than the patient living through it. Compassion has become a buzzword these days in medicine, and although it is a mainstay of a positive relationship, we should always remember that an equally important component of our careers is taking the back seat and just listening. Inspired by the etymology of the word “arthritis,” Arthron is a piece that focuses on the “joint”; both its physical meaning and the joint relationship required to have a positive physician-patient interaction. I hope this can serve as a visual reminder of how our careers would mean absolutely nothing without the incredible patients who allow us to join them on their journeys to health.

About the Artist: Gelila Yitsege

Gelila Yitsege is a rising second-year medical student from Alexandria, VA, who is also part of the Primary Care Leadership Tract. She loves spending time with her friends, family and her lovely dog, Tobi. Although her sights are set on becoming a pediatrician because she loves working with kids, she’s open to and curious about everything the medical field has to offer. This includes any opportunities she has to be creative and work outside of the DukeMed community, such as SCOPES, the Student National Medical Association, and paint n’ sips with friends! She’s so excited to see what her SCOPES peers have created for this incredible exhibition!

A Hand to Hold

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A Hand to Hold explores my patient’s experience of her disease through the lens of her relationship with her family and Christianity, both of which have served as a bedrock for her as she has navigated living with rheumatoid arthritis.

She remarked to me during one of our meetings that “she has two hands, one for each of her sons.” My patient was diagnosed with RA shortly following the birth of her first son. Shortly before becoming unexpectedly pregnant with her second son, she decided on her own to stop taking methotrexate (a teratogen). She attributes this decision to a small miracle from God. Things like this have confirmed her faith and made her more certain of the connectedness of her disease, Christianity, and family.

I wanted my project to reflect some of these details — to pay homage to how all these parts of her life are interconnected.

About the Artist: Grace Nipp

I am a rising 2nd year medical student from Raleigh, NC. I always joke that any art of mine looks like something that a really talented 12-year-old might produce. I don’t really consider myself an artist for this reason, but when my mother and grandmother taught me how to embroider several years ago, I found something that allowed me to relax and contemplate. However, until now, I’ve never explored art’s intersection with medicine and a patient’s experience. I am excited to participate in SCOPES as a way of pushing my own boundaries and learning more about a patient’s experiences and feelings about their illness in a way that is not traditionally done in medical school. 

Bloodlines

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This work consists of a structured black corset with an embroidered anatomical heart, with beaded embroidered vessels reaching out from it and wrapping around the bodice in red and blue. My partner, though in relatively good health herself, spoke at length about her family’s experiences with heart disease. She lost her husband to heart failure and was now coping with her son’s decreasing heart function. The heart has many cultural meanings worldwide; in this project, it has both a literal meaning and a figurative one. My partner is a pillar of her family; before COVID, all of her family assembled for her birthday in February, and she lives close to her daughter in Durham. She is committed to social activism and service, taking an active role in the improvement of housing for Durham’s most needy. She has a multitude of hobbies, including reading, knitting, and embroidery. I wanted the veins and vessels to represent her interconnectedness with her community, with my partner herself as a beating heart at the center of it all.

About the Artist: Julia Denniss

Art has been an integral part of my identity since I was young. I have tried out many forms of media, including drawing, painting, music, and jewelry-making, but when my mother began teaching me to sew as a teenager, a world of opportunities unfolded for me. I have always been inspired by couture fashion and the ways clothing can communicate deeper meanings to the viewer. Sewing as a three-dimensional artform constantly challenges me to learn new techniques to add to my repertoire. I was drawn to SCOPES because I feel that art and science are intrinsically connected, not diametrically opposed. I was excited by the opportunity to represent my partner through a piece of clothing that tells a story. Art provides an incredible means of relaying a patient’s experiences in a way that is immediately recognizable and understandable to the viewer. It has been a privilege to get to know my community partner through this project, and I am so grateful for the chance to represent her amazing life through my art.

Sensory Garden

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Meeting with my community partner was one of the highlights of my first year of medical school. Over a series of zoom calls, I met an incredibly bright educator, whose love of life and wholesome living was inspiring. Our conversations changed topics frequently, ranging from her life growing up in Sweden, her late husband, her involvement in the Raleigh-Durham community, her love of North Carolina Public Radio (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention People’s Pharmacy and On Being), and her lifelong struggle with Type 1 Diabetes. We discussed how she watched diabetes care evolve throughout her life, and how she went from not having home glucose monitoring as a child, to the wide array of continuous monitors and pumps that exist today. While we were discussing her vision loss related to her diabetic retinopathy, she told me about the garden she constructed in her backyard. Rather than focus on pristine landscaping or other visual aspects, she made her very own ‘sensory garden’ complete with the most fragrant blooms and bushes, calming sounds of birds, and an array of textures. Her garden is filled with fragrant rosemary, lavender, quince, pansies, and her favorite food – ripe tomatoes.

Before meeting my community partner, I imagined I’d do a painting or drawing as my SCOPES project. However, after learning about my community partner’s sensory garden, I wanted to challenge myself to go beyond art that was purely visual and create a three-dimensional, multisensory experience that encapsulated aspects of her life experience and journey with diabetes. Thus, the idea for this blanket was born. It begins in the lower left hand corner with small blue and yellow flowers to represent her childhood in Sweden, before transitioning to flowers in red, white, and blue to represent her immigration to America. Sweet pinks, purples, and flowers meant to resemble quince follow, representing her loving relationship with her husband. A focus of yellow flowers, surrounded by trails of red, branching vines are meant to resemble the retina on a fundoscopic exam, a nod to her experience with diabetic retinopathy. The rightmost section includes more orange hues, meant to symbolize the color of the leukemia ribbon and her recent diagnosis of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The progression of size, shape, and complexity of the flowers are meant to represent her commitment to lifelong learning, curiosity, and personal growth. Finally, a few tomatoes are sprinkled in, as an appreciation of her favorite food. The bright, bold colors throughout are an appreciation of Swedish fashion designer Gudrun Sjoden.

About the Artist: Lauren Parker

Lauren is from Richmond, Virginia and enrolled in Duke after attending Johns Hopkins University and studying Molecular and Cellular Biology. She joined the SCOPES project because she wanted protected space for art and creativity amidst the busy first year of medical school. She is in the MD/PhD program and hopes to pursue a career in pediatric cardiology or cardiothoracic surgery. Outside of medicine, she enjoys yoga, climbing, swimming, crafting, and playing with her adorable chihuahua named Phil.

Root of it All

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In the film, once the main character (Beet) finds herself alone, no longer surrounded by her potato family, her body starts to fall apart. The damage done by the knife and peeler, represent both pain inflicted by people around her as well as illness. While she is able to hold herself together with toothpicks, this represents the “band-aid for a bullet wound” that medication and surgery can feel like. When she realizes the toothpicks aren’t helping her progress, she does the unthinkable and transforms herself.

The story is fully inspired by my APPLE patient who lives alone in Durham, grappling with physical and mental handicaps as well as financial and nutritional insecurity. Nevertheless, she is working towards completing her bachelor’s degree, a lifelong goal, and is an active singer in a gospel choir. When her mental health and knee pain limited her mobility, she did not let it stop her from reaching her goals. Her ability to make the most of her resources was an inspiration. 

Since our relationship grew out of Project FEED, a fresh produce program, I knew I wanted to use produce in my project. I landed on root vegetables because I often saw a line of potatoes on her counter, washed and ready to be eaten. I saw her as the beet because its unassuming exterior hides such a stunning inner beauty.

The music choice was inspired by her love of gospel music and as a Jew myself, Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Skyseemed like the perfect marriage of our spiritual backgrounds and a summation of our relationship.

About the Artist: Lindsay Olson

My undergraduate education was in Theater Arts with a focus on acting, directing, and arts & entertainment management. While my program focused mostly on live performance, I was able to take courses in film & TV, where further curiosity was sparked. I didn’t discover medicine until years after college when I was drawn to the skills with which great physicians are able to connect with people and help change their lives. I was fascinated by the biology and anatomy of medicine, but even more by the intersection of arts and sciences. The chance to integrate these worlds is a lifelong interest, so SCOPES was an exciting challenge. I hope to continue creating throughout my medical career and I am grateful to Duke for giving me built-in opportunities along the way.

Praying Hands

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I was told that Ms. A has diabetes, fibromyalgia, and gastroesophageal reflux disease. But our conversations do not focus on her aches and pains. Ms. A instead talks about her family members and other important figures in her life. 

I visited Ms. A on Fridays. After a hug from her, the second thing that greeted me when I walked into her home was a large photo collage that she had made over several years. It had pictures of all of her family members and other individuals important to her – school photos, snaps from birthday parties, and professional headshots. Each time I saw this collage it reminded me of Ms. A’s compassion, attention to detail, and commitment to long-term goals. She has shared that she invested so much time in looking after others that she had not been able to fully take care of herself. I also quickly learned that Ms. A knows more about her comorbidities and their management than any doctor she receives care from. She has successfully decreased her weight, lowered and maintained her blood sugars, and schedules and attends her many doctors’ appointments without assistance. She even helps her neighbor, who has diabetes and is blind, by administering insulin and shopping for groceries.  

I noticed that Ms. A did not have many photos of herself in her collage. Therefore, I wanted to make something dedicated to her. I settled on a glass mosaic because she had given me a window into her life, and I wanted to make something she could put on the ledge. 

Ms. A had told me she admired praying hands. This became the subject of the mosaic as she frequently references the Bible in our conversations and her church group is a primary source of community. Her faith is a reliable resource, despite the healthcare system’s shortcomings. The color sets are Ms. A’s favorite. From a symbolic standpoint, the progression from reds to blues symbolize the unity that is achieved when opposing forces are harmonized by the joining of hands. In my faith of Hinduism, Namaskara, the ubiquitous sign of greeting, unity, and reverence, resembles Christian praying hands. Beyond these meanings, I now think of Ms. A when I fold my hands. I think of the strength and grace Ms. A demonstrate in overcoming health challenges and how she acquires them through folding her own hands daily.

About the Artist: Trisha Dalapati

Trisha visited the SCOPES exhibit at the beginning of her first year at Duke Med and admired the longitudinal exploration the program’s participants undertook to create their art. Although Trisha never formally trained in art, she dabbled in taking art history classes in undergrad, venturing to local art exhibits and museums during family vacations, and painting and glass working. In SCOPES, she has enjoyed learning from peers and physicians about their experiences making art and using it to build relationships with patients. For Trisha, making art feels restorative and the time invested in a piece honors the complexity of each patient’s story. Outside of medical school, Trisha enjoys gardening, running, experimental cooking, and drinking coffee.

Indefinite

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As we live in a global pandemic, a new generation experiences the uncertainty of a new disease course and the emotional toll that this carries. I try to remember how ominous COVID-19 seemed in the first few months of the pandemic and how ominous it continues to be in the face of continued spread and widespread skepticism and distrust in both the scientific community and elected officials. Still, that understanding falls short of what it must have been to be a closeted gay or bisexual man discovering he was HIV positive in the mid-1980s – the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I did not have this context when I first met Jay. I did not know about his HIV status, or sexuality, or his experience with chronic illness. When we first started talking, I encountered a sunny-dispositioned man who told me of the challenges of his upbringing, but emphasized that while his experiences shaped him, they did not take his joy. He didn’t “want to waste any energy being resentful.”  He also told me of his military service, his work as a barber, and his partner whom he had met in a paper ad. At the time we met, pain in Jay’s feet had started to slow him down more recently, but in the past few years he walked 3 miles everyday and enjoyed cycling. When Jay shared with me that he was HIV positive, I realized that “active”, “joyful”, and “happily partnered” were sentiments I had not previously associated with a positive HIV status. In the early years following Jay’s diagnosis, he remained closeted save for a few close friends, did not pursue romantic relationships, and did not share his HIV status with those around him. Soon after his diagnosis, he moved to a rural area of North Carolina to work at the Nantahala Outdoor Center where he taught water sports and maintained the outdoor center. He lived there for 10 years, and looks back at this period of life as a time in which he felt strong and healthy. His CD4 counts rose during this time and by all accounts he was “healthy.” Eventually, he came out to his Outdoor Center family and they received him despite a less-than-accepting surrounding community. Now, Jay is older and laments the changes in his body that he has experienced as a result of aging and prolonged medical therapy. He is not as strong as he used to be, he feels frail. “This isn’t me.” He said, in reference to his physical appearance as well as to the frustration he maintains with his chronic pain and limited ability to be active or to travel. The last time Jay visited the Outdoor Center it was to honor the life of a friend who he had lost. Despite painful memories associated with the space, it remains an environment that he associates with rejuvenation, vitality, and peace. In thinking of how to best honor Jay in my Scopes piece, the significance of the water and the outdoor space was not lost on me. I chose to portray a body of water bending towards the horizon to try to capture the indefinite nature of Jay’s prognosis at the time of his diagnosis as well as the evolution of Jay’s identity over the last many decades. I chose to work with embroidery as my medium to consider the hundreds to thousands of times that patients with prolonged disease courses must seek medical care and continuously be poked and prodded by medical professionals. I felt that the repeated poking of the needle through the cloth touched on this experience. 

About the Artist: Sydney Jeffs

For me, “creating” gives me a space both to express myself as well as a space in which to be mindful. The process of creating and diligently mastering a craft – whether it be making a new recipe or sketching a medical diagram, serves as a mindfulness practice. I have found that the awareness of self that comes from paying attention to my craft, on purpose and in the present moment, is meditative. In times of stress or worry, I often turn to creativity to root myself. SCOPES made a space for me to connect mindfulness and humanity to medicine.

Under One’s Wing

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David participated in the GOCHATS program, which pairs medical students with patients receiving treatment at the Duke Cancer Center. In his interviews with his patient, David was most profoundly struck by the depth of commitment between her and her spouse. “Under One’s Wing” is an attempt to capture the strength of that bond and of the advocacy and love his patient’s partner provided during a protracted and meandering treatment saga. Said treatment often involved isolation due to immune suppression – even before the coronavirus pandemic – a theme represented by the central pair’s lonesomeness on the bough. 

About the Artist: David Stevens

David Stevens was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and enrolled at DukeMed after studying history and chemistry in college. His course of study included several courses in the history of medicine, which first opened his eyes to the medical humanities and the interconnectedness of disease, society, and culture. Within medicine, David is interested in internal medicine, cardiology, and minimally invasive procedures. Outside of medicine, he enjoys distance running all over Durham, reading books and magazines, and playing golf at the Duke course. David chose to participate in SCOPES in order to maintain a personal passion for visual art.

Structured Function

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When deciding how best to depict my patient, I knew I had to focus on the brain because of his career focus on neuropharmacology. The cloud with the flower represents the beginning of frontotemporal dementia, which was noticed by his wife. The hearts pointing to the amygdala represent his wife who was his high school sweetheart. The Yuengling logo pointing to the hypothalamus represents his favorite beer (specifically black & tan). The hand pointing at the substantia nigra portrays the essential tremor that the patient developed in graduate school. The state of Montana with the fishing rod pointing at the motor cortex depicts his interest in trout fishing, which he learned to appreciate during a public health service trip in Montana. Lastly, the rhesus macaque near the spinal cord represents the bulk of his animal research studying the development of prosthetics for paraplegics. Overall, I tried to create a visual depiction of the different aspects of his interesting life, apart from his medical diagnosis. In the short time I had with my patient, we developed a pleasant relationship that I will cherish moving forward.

About the Artist: Isabel Prado

I have a strong interest in neuroscience, as it relates to all of the organ systems. Outside of medicine, I enjoy playing with my dog, hiking and playing tennis with friends, and listening to music or drawing. I chose to participate in SCOPES to have the opportunity to set aside some time to reflect artistically and touch base with my creative side. My interest in the medical humanities stems from my eagerness to harness my creative strengths to further expand my scientific and medical knowledge.

Together

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“Together” is a glass mosaic representing both the collaborative and innovative nature of the medical field. Progressing from left to right, the piece shows a progression of medical technology, first depicting a mortar and pestle, then a vial and a syringe, a pill bottle, and finally, an electronic glucose monitor. This series of images is accompanied by a simple term, “Together,” which serves not only as a reminder to physicians and researchers that collaboration moves our field forwards, but also as a reminder to all of us of the importance of the physician-patient relationship. My conversations with my community partner covered a wide range of topics, but collaboration and innovation seemed to be two common threads across all of our discussions. His experiences of living with type-II diabetes highlighted the daily quality of life improvements associated with gaining access to new therapies and technologies, as well as the joys of having a physician ready to rejoice with him when his A1C fell, but also ready to support him and draw up a new treatment plan when his numbers were moving in the wrong direction. However, his story also highlighted that our field still has much work to do, and that as physicians we should not be complacent with the status quo. We should continue to work towards new treatments, but we also need to keep working towards closing existing gaps in patient care. While my community partner’s own experience with type-II diabetes has a happy ending, his family has suffered immense pain associated with losing other family members at young ages to diabetic complications that ultimately could have been prevented. Finally, I believe a mosaic is a fitting medium to convey this message, because as physicians we will never truly be able to capture the entire story of our patients, but it should always be our goal to gather enough fragments of their story to approximate the larger picture. 

About the Artist: Ian George

Ian is a 2nd year medical student originally from Roswell, GA. He completed his undergraduate degree at Emory University, where he majored in Chemistry, Religion and Anthropology. Ian has not yet decided on a specific medical field, but he hopes to work in a field where he can build longitudinal relationships with his patients. He’s not sure if he will ever continue his anthropology or religion studies in an academic setting, but he believes he still has much to learn from his patients. While Ian has never pursued any formal art education, he has enjoyed exploring the mediums of photography and glass from a young age. Outside of medicine and art, Ian enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, running and camping.
Ian was excited to join SCOPES after learning about the program during last year’s exhibit. He believes that much like how a photograph only captures a single vantage point or how a mosaic constantly changes with the light, every patient that enters the clinic brings with them a wealth of experiences that are hidden beneath the surface. Art is an exciting way to explore these deeper connections within a patient, because it can often provide an avenue of exploration when words may otherwise fall flat.

Hidden Bells

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My patient was diagnosed with breast cancer early last year and began her journey to healing and recovery from the first day she noticed a lump in her breast as she examined herself in front of a mirror. The first day I met her, her treatment plan had changed as she was responding well to the chemotherapy. I could tell she was happy about the news and confident in her recovery, although she described her experiences navigating this illness as “deep” and “a lot to unpack”. A global pandemic came in between us meeting in person again but through our phone conversations, I learned more about her strong belief in God, similar to mine, and how her relationship with Him has been her comfort through these challenging times. Hidden Bells was inspired from my last conversation with her in which she told me about her experience ringing the bell to celebrate the completion of her cancer treatment. I could hear the purest joy and relief in her voice, knowing that she could celebrate the end of a difficult journey. I decided to make Hidden Bells a set of two paintings, the first one showing a black hexagon, signifying the cancer, embedded in a mutli-colored collage silhouette of a woman’s body. The collage of colors representing the different pieces of her life. In the second piece, the black hexagon is broken and becomes small black bells, still embedded in a collage, symbolizing the end of her cancer treatment. I chose to use warm colors in the first piece and cool colors in the second to symbolize transition from a difficult time to a time of joy and celebration. Hidden Bells highlights the importance of paying attention to the “little things”, like the ringing of a bell, that mean so much more to the people we care for.

About the Artist: Chinemerem Nwosu

Chinemerem was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Africa’s most populated city. Living in Lagos birthed her love for the arts with its vibrant spirit and resilient culture. From a young age, Chinemerem engaged in all forms of art from performance to visual and everything in between. Her African identity is the foundation of her being and the source of her inspiration. During undergrad, she founded Duke University’s first African Choir, Amandla Chorus, and danced with Duke’s premier African dance group, Nakisai ADE. Over the years, Chinemerem has found that engaging in art and the humanities provides her the freewill to be and to express herself in the purest form. Chinemerem decided to participate in SCOPES because she wanted to experience and express art through the lens of a patient. She wanted to delve deeper into the “little things” that tell the patient’s full and true story and show that patient’s are truly more than meets the eye.

Downsizing

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As medical students, we learn about a wide range of diseases affecting each organ system of the body. We learn their causes, consequences, and cures. As we learn these things, we begin to develop our own framework and perceptions regarding various illnesses. However, our interactions with patients can sometimes challenge our preconceived notions. A major framework of illness for me has been categorizing conditions based on the degree of risk and acuity, probably thanks to my time working in the ER. In talking with my community partner, Mr. S, I quickly realized that the conditions that are most concerning or bothersome for our patients may not be the same ones we consider to be the highest risk. Mr. S talked extensively about his and his wife’s struggles with osteoarthritis. He often referred to his arthritis as his “most annoying” medical condition, despite having several others that were more life-threatening. As he and his wife got older, their arthritis got worse and began affecting many aspects of their day to day lives, resulting in changes that he collectively referenced as “downsizing”. Not only did they need to move from their house into a smaller and more accessible apartment, but daily walks got harder and outings got shorter. This idea of downsizing is reflected in the piece by the black and silver cages taking in and forcing the red wire into a smaller and smaller space.

About the Artist: Brooke Hoehn

Brooke is a rising second year medical student from Wilmington NC. She grew up wanting to be a pediatric neurologist, but discovered a love for emergency medicine while working in the UNC ER as a medical scribe. For now, she plans to pursue a career as an emergency medicine physician, but is keeping an open mind going into her rotations this year. It is completely possible she will find a new speciality she loves even more. When she’s not sitting in the medical school lecture hall or library, she spends a lot of time in the air working on circus arts such as aerial silks, aerial hoop, and flying pole. Brooke also enjoys drawing, sculpting, reading and going dancing with friends. Her lifelong interest in the arts prompted her to complete a studio art minor during her time as an undergraduate student at UNC, and her absolute favorite class from this minor was metal sculpture. Her interests in both medicine and the arts have collided in many of her past art pieces, and she often finds a new perspective to a situation when engaging with it through an artistic lens. She was excited to learn about and be a part of the SCOPES project for this same reason. This program allowed her the opportunity to reflect on her patient’s story in a unique way, and enabled her to share that story and reflection with others.

Depths Untold: Honoring the life of one who was loved

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Filled with unassuming warmth, introspection, and humility, my APPLE partner was the rare type of person whose gentle presence leaves one brimming with gratitude for the opportunity to have known and been known by him. Tragically, he passed away from his illness in the spring of this year. During our final meetings, we discussed his goals and wishes for the remainder of his life, as well as his coming to terms with the progression of his illness. In creating this piece, it was my hope to bring together his thoughts and feelings in a cohesive way, while simultaneously recognizing that I had only scratched the surface of who he was and is as a person. Each verse reflects a snapshot of an idea or topic that we discussed in those final meetings.

About the Artist: Kira Panzer

I was drawn to SCOPES for the opportunity to get to know my APPLE partner on a deeper level through artistic collaboration, as well as for the challenge of creating artwork that reflects the complexities of what I have learned throughout the course of our relationship. My interest in medical humanities extends back to a memorable class in college, one that combined my interests in Neuroscience and French while exploring the writings of Gustave Flaubert, a 19th century French novelist who incorporated his personal experiences with epilepsy into his literary fiction.

An Ode to Quarantine 2020

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I didn’t get a chance to meet my patient until February 2020, and by the time I started working with her, COVID-19 had forced a shutdown of most activities. We weren’t able to meet in person for several weeks, and when we did, it was socially distanced and outside in a public place. Most of our conversations over the phone ended up being about the pandemic and how that was further restricting her life beyond what she was already limited to due to her metastatic cancer. She expressed sadness and frustration and regret that this time during quarantine might be her last. The thought was so sad she rarely brought it up or talked about the possibility. Instead, we talked about the activities she could do and ways in which she keeps up with her family and friends despite being ill during a pandemic. She is beautifully optimistic, full of charm and life, and wonderfully kind.

My project is a medley of my patient’s top three favorite songs: I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me, Fight Song by Rachel Platten, and Stand by Me by Rachel Platten*. The sheet music overlays a calendar beginning with the day I met her for the first time and our last meeting before the end of the project. Visually the piece evokes the limitation of time as represented by days on a calendar, but with melodic beauty during our short relationship. The music itself interweaves the original songs and remains faithful to the melodies my patient cherishes. The lyrics I highlighted and wrote out I chose to simultaneously represent: the main idea of the songs, the reality of COVID quarantine, our phone-based relationship, living with cancer, and my own hopes to understand what my patient goes through.

About the Artist: Raluca Gosman

I’ve never thought about medicine purely as a science. We spend a lot of time learning facts and evidence and standards of care, but there is a hugely important ~people~ component that is felt, intuited, and finessed outside of the classroom. The joy in birth, the grief after death, the confusion and frustration of illness are aspects of this profession that I want to engage with throughout my practice. SCOPES allowed me to not only get to know my patient’s experience through illness, but also to express symbolically and melodically the understanding I garnered and the connection we formed. I hope to continue to reflect on the meaning of illness throughout my career.

Piano arrangements found on musescore.com and google.com. Original song information:

  • I Can Only Imagine by Bart Millard; copyright INO/Curb
  • Fight Song by Rachel Platten and Dave Bassett; copyright Columbia Records
  • Stand by Me by Rachel Platten and Jack Antonoff, Joy Williams, Matt Morris, and Jon Levine; copyright Columbia Records

Timeless Tobacco

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Seth’s community partner spent the majority of his adult life rising through the ranks at the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company, eventually becoming a supervisor. As he stepped off of a train when returning from military service, uncertain of his next step in life, serendipity brought him a job offer from a fellow passenger. His life in Durham blossomed as he met his wife and started a family – he often reflected about how different his life would be without his spontaneous career. His apartment is decorated with elaborate paintings and intricate pottery that he crafted, but he currently lives with advancing visual impairment stemming from both age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, preventing him from enjoying his artwork or creating more. Seth created a pattern and cross-stitched the Chesterfield Building in Downtown Durham, which formerly housed the Liggett & Myers Tobacco Company. The writing on the sign is out-of-focus when viewed from up close, but can be more easily interpreted from a distance: this represents the temporal nature of his community partner’s illness.

About the Artist: Seth Flynn

Seth has called North Carolina home for his entire life – he grew up in the tiny mountain haven of Burnsville (closest landmark: Asheville), where he was steeped in Appalachian culture, learned how to tend a garden with his grandmother, and developed an appreciation for the rich stories of older adults. He continued exploring his interest in geriatrics as a volunteer at an assisted living home during undergrad: he’ll never forget his Saturday morning bingo crew. Seth joined SCOPES because he believes that bearing witness to the intimate, sometimes painful, often character-shaping details of a person’s life and illness is a unique privilege, one that warrants immortalizing the essence of that encounter through art. In his free time, he enjoys playing piano, strumming a few chords on the ukulele, and tackling Pinterest DIY projects.

Rebirth

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Rebirth portrays the evolution of three emotional states that Greta (pseudonym), an African American woman, experienced following the heartbreaking and untimely loss of her child. The arc of emotions are embodied in three abstract alcohol ink paintings of Greta with accompanying dried and pressed flora. From left to right, the images show Greta enduring sorrow, numbness, and serenity. The clear frame allows the viewer to explore the piece against a multitude of backgrounds, and contrast the changing world against her persistent expressions, just as she had experienced. The flora add a living and vivid element to the piece as they reveal her mental complexion for each emotional phase. Greta’s eyes remain closed in all three iterations to reflect her deep meditation and her connection with her faith.

Sorrow: More than 30 years ago, Greta tragically lost her “baby girl” in a fatal car accident. Losing a child was agonizing for her. She experienced profound sadness and suffering for months after the incident with occasional surges of anger. Note the orientation of the ink running down the image in the first iteration, from left to right. I chose to incorporate aged flowers suspended at their brown, muted stage to represent her suffering from the death of her child. The flora drape around her face as a symbol of a mourning veil often seen at funerals.

Numbness: Eventually, Greta’s sorrow turned into numbness. She felt nothing for years: no longer sad, but unable to be happy. She knew she needed to move forward but found that difficult. Life passed, but her feeling of purposelessness lingered. In the middle image, her face was painted expressionless to make her emptiness apparent. The white floral crown symbolizes eternity and emphasizes the staying power of her numb state. The lone green vine is the strand of faith she held through it all.

Serenity: Blessed with another pregnancy, Greta began a new life with new perspectives. Her “gift from God,” another baby girl, was her “second chance,” and she endeavored to forgive those involved in the tragic accident to achieve inner peace. By forging forward, Greta rekindled her happiness, embarked to cherish all aspects of life, and – at last – attained serenity. The brush patterns on her face radiate from her subtle smile to symbolize her freedom. Recurring splashes of purple evoke her sense of peace. The ornate decoration of her mind, as represented by the diversity of flowers, reveals the true complexity of her life.

 

About the Artist: Gabriella Alvarez

I remember the first patient I helped fit a wig for at the Duke Cancer Center. Only thirty minutes earlier, she was given the news that she was diagnosed with cancer.  I was scared of making her feel worse, as this was the first time I had to handle such a grave situation and she was in a delicate state. She expressed to me that her hair helped define her femininity and that she was afraid a wig would not do it justice. All the more, I wanted to find her the perfect wig that made her feel confident in her appearance. It took well over an hour, but the wig we decided on brought a smile to her face and made her hopeful for the future.

Personal appearance, as an agent of well-being, drives my interest in the medical humanities. I view personal appearance as an artform – a vessel for self-expression and a means to heal – and I partake in creating this artform every day in my most dearest hobby: makeup artistry. Through makeup, I am able to showcase my creativity and externalize my attitude for the day. I love to share my knowledge of makeup and see how it can improve the self-esteem and self-perception of those around me. This is why I chose to volunteer fitting wigs; I wanted to encourage others to see themselves in a positive light by fashioning their own outward style.

I chose to participate in SCOPES because I desired to tell the story of my patient through image rather than words. I believed that her and my individual experiences, as well as our shared experience during our time together would be most evident through an art piece. Participating in SCOPES allowed me to bring my creative capacity to the medical humanities, and tie in my penchant for beauty and transformation.