Creative Visions Celebrated at Second Annual Jacobs Arts Festival

Published May 15, 2017

The creative talents of students, faculty and staff of the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences were on display at the second annual Jacobs Arts Festival April 27 in the Biomedical Education Building atrium.

“The goal of medical education is to create doctors, but if they become too narrow, how are they going to be able to relate to and interact with patients? ”
Center for Medical Humanities director

Pop-Up Exhibition a Chance to Cross Boundaries

The pop-up exhibition featuring more than two dozen paintings, drawings, pieces of poetry and other works of art was sponsored by the UB Center for Medical Humanities and the Jacobs Arts and Visual Interest Society (JArVIS).

“The festival brings together a cross section of the medical school as they bring their works to exhibit,” says Linda F. Pessar, MD, director of the Center for Medical Humanities and professor emerita of psychiatry.

“It is a chance to meet with one another to cross boundaries and break down the hierarchical relationships that exist in medical school,” she says.

Art Helps to Better Humanize Medical Students

Pessar notes it is important for medical students to realize they have other talents and interests that should be nurtured.

“The festival underscores that we are gifted in all kinds of ways, and that should be embraced,” she says. “It celebrates learning about people and creates new bonds. All of these aspects are part of the center’s mission.”

Pessar says embracing life through creating and discussing art helps to better expand the focus of students.

“The goal of medical education is to create doctors, but if they become too narrow, how are they going to be able to relate to and interact with patients?”

Connecting Visual Arts to the Practice of Medicine

First-year medical students Charlene Liao and James Lee were co-coordinators of the festival and were assisted by Ginny O’Brien, an arts consultant in medical education, who is also a registered nurse.

Through JArVIS, O’Brien has conducted workshops for medical students in life drawing, watercolor and silk painting that are designed to make connections between the visual arts and the practice of medicine.

She says that observational skills are critical in both medicine and art and notes the life drawing classes with nude models are aligned with gross anatomy instruction.

O’Brien also notes the importance of the social aspect of the workshops and the students’ ability to decompress during them.

“In our watercolor workshop, we had one student in particular where his paintings just emerged,” she says. “It was almost as though he was developing a photograph in his mind’s eye. All of a sudden there was this beautiful landscape in a fairly short amount of time. He was just relaxing and letting it flow out of him.”

Rest and Renewal Common Theme in Workshops

Liao says the workshops had a very calming effect on her.

“There was a lot of rest and renewal. It was very de-stressing,” she says. “Watching colors flow together is very relaxing.”

O’Brien says even though the sessions can be relaxing, the students bring a certain intensity.

“The class sessions become really quiet. There is a hush in the room,” she says. “In life drawing, you can hear the tapping of the pencils drawing because the students are so focused and dedicated to the process.”

Many Introspective, Highly Personalized Works

Among the items on display were:

  • poems by Tom Fuchs, a doctoral student in the neuroscience program, and Emily Zhou, a first-year medical student
  • artwork titled “GI Diagnosis Ontology,” by Peter L. Elkin, MD, professor and chair of biomedical informatics
  • a photograph titled “Reflection on the Pond,” by Margarita L. Dubocovich, PhD, senior associate dean of diversity and inclusion and SUNY Distinguished Professor of pharmacology and toxicology
  • a needlepoint titled “The Bird Feeder,” by Cynthia A. Dlugos, PhD, research associate professor of pathology and anatomical sciences
  • photographs titled “My Travel Moments,” by third-year medical student Sung Jun Ma
  • a mixed media/video presentation titled “19 Years: An Immigration Story,” by first-year medical student Aaron Bola
  • an appliqued and quilted wall hanging titled “The Cowan Barn,” by Pessar