School of Medicine students showcase their artistic abilities

April 28 2017
"Equilibrium" by student Samuel Whittier "Equilibrium" by student Samuel Whittier

By Sarah Taylor

Medical students at the University of Utah are tapping into their creative and curious side as they showcase works of art in the “Layers of Medicine” art exhibit hosted by U’s Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library. The exhibit is a part of a required course, Layers of Medicine, directed by Karly Pippitt, MD, FAAFP, and Gretchen Case, PhD at the School of Medicine, and aims “to teach the ‘layers’ that are important to being a physician, covering things like art, humanities, ethics, public/global health, health care delivery, professionalism, cultural humility, sex and gender in the context of the science they are learning.”

In 2014, the instructors began incorporating art projects into the course. They hope with art and creative thinking they can facilitate students reconnecting with existing skills and talents or exploring new ones, allowing them to investigate topics or themes more deeply or in new ways. Students may choose from among any of the themes covered in the course including wellness, cancer, death, and professionalism. Once they have chosen a theme, students are able to collaborate on projects or produce their own individual works.

Students never cease to amaze the course directors in bringing forth their creative talents. The projects presented range from musical pieces to standup comedy, and some students have enjoyed the process so much they have taken their projects beyond the exhibit. One student was inspired to pursue publishing a children’s book, and others have published writings in scholarly journals. Pippitt and Case have found that the course gives students an opportunity to think creatively about topics and stretch their brains in an entirely different way than they are accustomed.

“Drs. Pippitt and Case have created a wonderful course that foregrounds the role humanistic — not to mention artistic — inquiry plays in the study and practice of medicine,” said Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell, Associate Dean for Research in the College of Fine Arts. “We all need what the arts have to offer: joy, beauty, entertainment, meaning, and social connection. Exhibitions and performances in healthcare settings offer us opportunities to encounter one another not as provider and patient, but as people with identities, interests, and talents beyond the healthcare context.”

Those who attend this year’s “Layers of Medicine” exhibit can expect to see a wide array of art pieces such as paintings, drawings, poems, short stories, antique medical equipment used by a student’s great-grandfather, sculptures, graphic art, art using clothing, and more. The exhibit is open until May 13, 2017 and is free and open to the public.

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One drawing in student Michael Prestgard-Duke's series entitled, "Hope Springs Eternal"

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(Left to right) Layers of Medicine co-directors, Gretchen Case, PhD and Dr. Karly Pippitt

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