Lifelong learner of science, art, and fresh spins on kindergarten
During our student presentations in genetics last semester, Bo-Kyu Kim (he goes by Bo) drew portraits of many of us. We can only trust that our presentations were so riveting that he did not need to take notes, but internalized every word.
I thought I would have a mental break from genetics, at least for a while, and I thought I would not get the chance to see many of the diseases we studied, at least for a while. But when following an obstetrician-gynecologist, I met a woman with neurofibromatosis. Afterwards the doctor quizzed me, “Type 1 or type 2?” It was type 1; these patients have raised mole-like tumors and “cafe au lait” spots all over their skin, as well as nodules in their irises. Real people deal with these rare but real diseases. The doctor relayed to me the story of another mother with neurofibromatosis who identified that her baby had inherited the same, even though her doctor had not thought so. She made the baby cry. “Look,” she said, as the cafe-au-lait spots showed up on the baby’s African American skin. Often in medicine, as in life, mothers know best.
Again, a patient renewed my motivation to pay attention to details. The doctor advised me to read about diseases whenever I encounter them at the hospital because I will more likely remember the associated details if I place them with the memory of a patient.
Below, Bo’s art show.
This year’s Reflections booklet is now available online here. The class of 2014 received copies at their White Coat Ceremony. I really enjoyed helping to put it together during my internship this summer. My classmate, Ben Randel, and I submitted reflections on a similar topic. For the first semester of the first-year Introduction to Clinical Medicine course at the Lafayette campus, students are paired with “neighbors” in the local community. I wrote “Art Lesson” about my first visit. I visted my “neighbor” and his wife today to give them a copy and to see how they are doing; some people prefer acute care, but I prefer to follow patients (in this case, friends) over extended periods of time. Ben’s is uniquely written from the perspective of “Martha’s Cane.” There are also essays by IUSM-Northwest students about meeting their cadaver lab donors’ families and so many other great stories in this year’s Reflections.
It was a privilege to work on Reflections with the other members of the editorial board. The artwork of one of them, Dr. Jeffrey Rothenberg, and his wife, Joani (whose beautiful painting is on the cover), was featured in a July exhibit at the IUPUI Campus Center. Not many physicians can say their specialties are obstetrics and gynecology as well as glassblowing. His pieces are marvelous, and he finds joy in the process of creating them. It is inspiring to see doctors who take time to pursue their artistic interests, like the physicians and students who perform in the new IUSM Orchestra. I wasn’t able to attend their inaugural performance in June, but I hope to attend one in the future.
I got through my first year of medical school by expressing my thoughts and feelings in diverse ways—phone calls to Mom, Facebook status updates, Facebook photo captions, Facebook wall posts…. Hey, on certain Tuesday evenings or Saturday afternoons during med school, online social networking is the only sensible way to “get out.”
Each year at their White Coat Ceremony, first-year medical students receive a copy of Reflections, a booklet of writings and art submitted by members of the health care community and published by IUSM’s Office for Medical Education and Curricular Affairs. This year’s theme is Learning Together, Working Together. I am glad that, through Reflections and this blog, I have new means of expressing what besides immunology I have learned this year. My Facebook friends will be glad too when they notice that their News Feeds have been unclogged.
This is one of my submissions to Reflections.
Hope in Full Color
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul,” wrote the apostle Paul in Hebrews 6:19. When cancer patients or their caregivers feel adrift in a sea of concerns and of the unknown, Tina and John Gianfagna step in to give them hope, as well as an outlet to express what they are feeling. The Gianfagnas help them to create bookmarks like these first ones I painted (with inspirational messages beautifully written by Tina) while volunteering with the couple at the IU Simon Cancer Center. I got involved partly because of my experiences when my mother went through treatments for cancer. The Gianfagnas do this because they are seeing to the continuation of the mission and memory of their daughter, Jeanette, who founded the non-profit organization while she herself wielded a paintbrush in her fight against cancer.
Their organization is called Creating Hope—and they do exactly that inside those whose thoughts, fears, and hopes bleed out with the watercolors from the brush as they touch it to paper. As I was painting, John looked up, leaned over to intervene: “Go ahead—put more color on the brush.” I continued, peacefully painting, understanding why it is called art therapy.