As a pre-medical student, I was extremely excited to have been accepted to the King’s College London Health and Society Premedical Program for the Spring 2019 semester. I was 1 of 16 study abroad students chosen from the United States to participate in this five month program. This pre-medical course introduced me to a new way of thinking about medicine. By visiting art galleries and medical museums I learned a great deal of how far we have come in medicine and the endless possibilities we have.
When I first entered the Saatchi Gallery, I could not imagine how we could connect this to being a good doctor. However, my great professor taught us that ‘the more you look, the more you see’. I have never been a fan of modern art, simply because it’s abstraction frustrated me. I like being able to look at something and having a clear picture of what is going on. Like art, medicine is not always black and white. Patients curate their symptoms into a story that they share in confidence with physicians. A good doctor will know that an open mind and imagination are key to understanding the bigger picture and treating a patient. This visit also taught me that one must scratch beneath the surface to understand a painting, or in this case, a patient. The questions we ask can steer how we view a patient’s symptoms.
Thus, listening is key to understanding what a patient is experiencing. It is crucial that we look beyond what is present and keep an open mind when a situation seems apparent. The Saatchi Gallery also taught me that state of mind is crucial when treating patients. When we view art, we often react in relation to how we are feeling then. As a physician, it is important to separate our sense of self and view things objectively. However, objectivity should be properly balanced with empathy—one of the most important characteristics to being a great doctor. I believe my experiences in not just the Saatchi Gallery, but all my field trips have colored my perceptions of health and society.
The way we feel about ourselves and the world greatly impacts our health. We should view a patient like a painting, complex yet discernible if we simply look deep enough.
Overall, my academic experience at King’s has enhanced my career readiness and changed my outlook on how I view physicians. Learning about science-based professions through an artistic lens is what makes the academic experience at King’s unique. Throughout my shadowing placements at HIV, rheumatology, osteopathy, and GP clinics, I also acquired real life experience with patient-physician interactions. I plan to carry these lessons with me throughout my journey to becoming a future physician.