The Art of Medicine

There’s a great deal of art in the practice of medicine. It just doesn’t usually find its way into medical meetings.

Lilly Oncology On Canvas©

 Yet, there in the poster hall at the Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology, amongst all the talk of TKI resistance and MEK inhibitors, were easels full of art including a pastel of mischievous fairies dancing among daisies and a painting of a bald woman smiling out from behind a pair of rose-colored spectacles beside the words, “Life is full of surprises.”  

The pieces are part of the Lilly Oncology On Canvas project, an art competition and exhibition launched in 2004 with the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship as a way for those affected by cancer to express themselves and provide inspiration to others. The competition is open to patients, family members, friends, and caregivers and, surprisingly, health care providers.

"Best of Exhibition" 2010 Lilly Oncology On Canvas©

More than 600 entries were received for the 2010 competition, with Annette Zalewski , a nurse of nearly 30 years, earning three awards including “Best of Exhibition” for her determination to continue weaving together a beautiful life that was “cut up, rearranged” by lung cancer.
 
 This past year, previous winning pieces toured no less than 285 cancer centers, hospitals and cancer advocacy events from San Francisco and D.C. to such tiny towns as Opelousas, La., and Yankton, S.D. Some of the art and remains behind, with cancer charities also receiving up to $10,000 donated in the name of the winners.
RxArt project founder Diane Brown has decided to take the art concept one step further after a frightening CT exam left the former gallery owner and curator wishing for a diversion. Ms. Brown now coordinates with artists to place original installations in exam rooms and even splashes them across pricey diagnostic equipment. The result blows the typical hospital lobby floral landscape out of the water.
Even the stoic Scots have launched the Art in Hospitals project, which coordinates art exhibitions from the dialysis room to the psychiatric ward and offers workshops where patients can experiment creating their own art.
I can’t help but think all of this would please the 56-year-old retired physician turned pastel artist detailed in a case report just two aisles over in the poster hall from the Lilly Oncology On Canvas display.
The artist was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, an uncommon pathology in a never-smoker. After four cycles of adjuvant chemotherapy, physicians at Mayo Clinic Arizona found no evidence of disease on her latest CT.
The authors note, however, that lung cancer in never-smoking women is the fastest growing subset of patients with lung cancer. Hopefully, these women’s journeys through cancer will be enriched with healthy doses of both medicine and art.

Patrice Wendling (on Twitter @pwendl)

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Filed under Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Hematology, Hospice and Palliative Care, Hospital and Critical Care Medicine, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Oncology

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