Brought to you by the students of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
It was with some fear and trepidation that we, as the new co-Editors-in-Chief for Mentis, sent out emails calling for submissions for our fifth issue. We are fairly new to the world of running literary magazines, so the idea of drumming up submissions from our already busy classmates and somehow bringing them together to create a unified issue was daunting. We were pleasantly surprised, however, by both the number and quality of the submissions we received. Perhaps this should not have been surprising; after all, medicine and the arts have often walked hand in hand. Physician-writers such as Anton Chekov, William Carlos Williams, Walker Percy, John Keats, and A.J. Cronin immediately come to mind. We have all heard that medicine is an art; maybe this overlap between physicians and artists occurs because many of the qualities that make someone a good artist are also crucial to becoming a good doctor. While this may be a cliché, we believe that there is some merit to the comparison.
Take painting, for instance. The painter must know his subject intimately: how it is shaped, what it feels like, what it is made of, and how it works. Da Vinci dissected not because he was a scientist, but because he was an artist; he painted the human body and needed to understand its every aspect, even the innermost parts. Understanding, though, is not enough for a painter – he must also paint. He knows his medium – the perfect mix of colors to match his subject, the precise brush strokes to make our eyes dance across the canvas, the right frame to contain his work. Furthermore, he must know the true essence of his subject – not just what it is, but what it ought to be, what it wants to be. The artist must have a sense that something is lost; the canvas is where he recovers it.
We differ in the particulars, but in a very real sense doctors are often after these same things. We deal- not in landscapes or still lifes- but in portraits. Patients are our subjects, and we must know them as intimately as any artists does his work, if not more so. We observe the patient’s superficial appearance, his complexion and composition, looking for any clues as to his health. We dissect with our eyes, noting each sprocket and gear of the body and how it interacts with the other parts. We understand how disease can break this interaction and bring patients to our waiting rooms. But- like the painter- knowing does not satisfy us: we must paint. We carefully select from our palette of drugs, knowing the effect of each and what colors they make when mixed. We exchange the brush for the scalpel, making neat, precise strokes that do far more than cut open a body; they restore it and make it new.
But perhaps the most fundamental tool in our proverbial doctor’s bag is the very words we use. Drugs and scalpels may shape the body, but words shape the mind, and this is perhaps the most important part of healing. Words have the potent ability to transform the way we think, the way we view the world, and even the way we behave. When we tell a patient his diagnosis, discuss his treatment and his prognosis, we are helping to write his story – our words transform the way he views his disease, himself, his life, and can empower him to live life to the fullest, in spite of sickness.
In short, medicine and art are inextricably linked. We hope in this issue and in issues to come that Mentis will continue to be a marriage between two, not only because pursuing art will make us better doctors, but because medicine without art is no medicine at all.
Benjamin C. Cox and Erin Armao
Co-Editors in Chief of Mentis
About the artwork:
"Unfinished", by first year Connie Fu, depicts Moulkheir Mint Yarba, a Mauritanian woman who escaped modern-day slavery in 2010. For more information, visit http://goo.gl/7GPcC. Acrylic on Canvas, 8"x10".
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