Medicine and Art

Art and Medicine. Medicine and Art.  At first glance, they don’t seem to be good partners. They don’t seem to have  anything in common. But, trust me, they do. I’m sure you’re thinking that those serious doctors with white coats and aseptic clinics have nothing to do with Salvador Dali or Vincent Van Gogh.  Medicine, however, is a lot more than just scary hospitals and needles. Medicine is about sharing moments with a person in a vulnerable moment of their life. It’s about seating next to that person,  who has a name, a family, good and bad memories… and trying to help them. Medicine is about helping  others, not just by treating them, but also by accompanying them through pain, depression, uncertainty and death. These are moments and emotions  which are sometimes impossible to put into words, and this is  why a lot of artists have tried to capture these feelings through their work: it acted as a form of therapy. So Art can heal and Art can help Medicine  understand the patient’s feelings, and by doing so,  gain empathy.

Have I convinced you already that Medicine and Art are very good friends? Great! To illustrate this, on this first post,  I’d like to talk about how illness and pain have influenced the work of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who said: “My painting carries with it the message of pain.”

Frida was born in 1907 in Coyoacán, Mexico (in the famous “Casa Azul”). Did you know that she wanted to be a doctor? In 1922, she started studying natural sciences in the National Preparatory School with the desire of becoming a doctor someday. However, when she was 18 years old, she was heading to school and she  had a traffic accident that changed her life forever. She had multiple bone fractures, affecting her pelvis and spine. Her recovery was very long and painful and she had to spend months in bed. Her ideas of becoming a doctor went away. She  was in pain for the rest of her life (she had 30  surgeries throughout her lifetime in an attempt to correct the damage) and she became addicted to painkillers and alcohol. This is why  much of her work is related to suffering, loneliness and pain. In 1953, Frida’s right foot was affected by gangrene and doctors were forced to amputate her right leg below the knee. In her diary, Frida drew a sketch of her amputated leg and wrote: “Feet…what do I need them for if I have wings to fly.”

Frida died in the same place  where she was born, in the “Casa Azul”, on July 13th, 1954. She was only 47 years old. The cause of death was officially reported as “pulmonary embolism”.

Frida Kahlo is an example of how Art and Medicine can work together. In the paintings below, Frida expresses her pain through art as a form of therapy. As she said, “I am not sick…I am broken… but I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint…”.

Miranda Rico

Henry Ford Hospital (The Flying Bed) (1932)

The Broken Column (1944)

Without Hope (1945)

The Wounded Deer (1946)

Tree of Hope, Remain Strong (1946)

The beginning of the journey

SALVE everyone,                           

welcome to the first article of the newly created blog – Journal of a young Doctor. My name is Benedetta Ronchi and I am a medical student at Sapienza University, Rome. Alongside with my colleagues from all over the world, we are starting TODAY this new, wonderful adventure.

Our mission is to bring a little extra salt in the lives of everyone of our readers, interested in the medical area but not necessarily medical professionals.

We will talk about art, culture, news and more, connected to the world of Medicine. From this day forward, every week, we will publish one article that is part of one of four different columns:

-The Journal of a young Doctor : Book club

-The Med Humanitarian : News from the world

-Emotional Health in everyday life

-Medicine in Art and Cinema

-Mediethical Discussions

Without further ado, let’s start with the introduction of my personal column: The Journal of a young Doctor Book Club.

This project’s objective is to share opinion about books that we think can help us better understand our lives, both in work and every day routine. That’s why I chose to open the article with a famous Latin greeting (ed. Salve) which literally translates to “wish you well”.

My hope is for all you readers to keep in touch and read a book at the same time as I will. Every first day of the month, at the end of each article, I will tell you the next book I will be reviewing, so that we won’t miss each other!

Of course, all the readers who just want to enjoy the articles are welcome to do so and participate in the discussions anyway.

The first book will be “Heart of a Dog” by Mikhail Bulgakov, I chose it because it’s a short story, to give us an easy starting point. See you in two weeks (for this time only)!

Have a wonderful day,