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Symposium connects arts, medicine


As part of an event Wednesday intended to celebrate the intersection of medicine and the arts, Stanford School of Medicine students displayed creative works ranging from an original violin piece to belly dancing. Three students were also recognized as winners of the Global Health Essay Competition.


            Held Wednesday night at the Li Ka Shing Center, the 11th annual Medicine and the Muse event featured keynote speaker Sheri Fink, a Pulitzer Prize winner for investigative journalism in 2010. Past symposiums have included speakers such as concert pianist Richard Kogan in 2011 and Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink, in 2010.


            “This year was our inaugural year where we actually debuted a new fellowship on global health and the media,” said Michele Barry, senior associate dean for global health at Stanford. “In order to be an effective change agent to make a difference in global health, you have to be able to tell your story well.”


            The winners of the Global Health Essay Competition, judged by Fink during its final stages, were current medical students Laura Saucier, who won first prize, Amrapali Maitra, first runner-up, and Pria Anand, who placed third.


            “The multitalented medical students maintained a balance between the arts, humanities and medicine,” said Charles G. Prober, senior associate dean for medical student education, acknowledging the theme of the symposium: transcendence.


            According to Prober, the event was intended, “to celebrate the juxtaposition and intertwining of the arts and medicine,” since there needs to be a reminder of the balancing benefits of the two as way of “cultivating and maintaining your outside interests.”


            The medical student presentations included an original violin piece, “Hermento’s Woksape” by Ben Robison, a belly dance performed by Patricia Ortiz-Tello, a group poem titled “Body Parts,” a comical song “Ode to Advance Directives” by Nicole D’Arcy and Anna Krawisz, and a speech “Would you lie in a tub of cockroaches?” by Shervin Wang.


            “Many of you have experienced that urge to express yourself, whether it is through words, music or art,” Fink said during her keynote speech, mentioning how different forms of expression can help people cope and understand the emotions that they feel as they go through different experiences in their lives.


            “Words have power,” Fink added. “Words matter, like notes of a song, colors of a painting, the moves of a dancer. We have to remain mindful of the power these forms of expression have.”


            The floor was then opened to audience questions. The audience included around 200 medical students, graduate students, faculty and community members.


            Fink reminded her audience, as physicians venturing into different fields, to respect and be aware of the different standards and ethical obligations held by other fields.


            “Remember that with your pens and paintbrushes, and with your laptops and lab benches and offices, that you have the power to do great good, the power to harm and the power to do the work that impassions you,” Fink concluded.


            Audrey Shaffer, a professor of anesthesia and director of the program in arts, has organized all of the Medicine and the Muse events since the series’ inception. Medicine and the Muse is sponsored by the Center for Biomedical Ethics; the School of Medicine’s Arts, Humanities and Medicine Program; and the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts, in addition to grants from the Stanford School of Medicine and The Drs. Ben and A. Jess Shenson Funds.

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Catherine Zaw was formerly the Managing Editor of News for Vol. 245 and Vol. 246. To contact her, please email [email protected]