It was the afternoon of a so far productive day. We woke up early, found our way into a new favorite coffee shop, and engaged our brains in a four hour, memorize everything you can about Cardiology and Heme/Onc, study session. As a scientific break we stopped by the Contemporary Art Museum and found an interactive exhibit by Mark Flood. Canvases of harsh realities, critical views, and political incorrectness spanned the walls. The interactive part was simply a like sign, to place in front of the work that touched you the most.
This was mine.
I was nodding along when I saw a wall-spanning canvas of military warfare stamps showcasing an obsession we have with military power, a jab at the obsession our culture has with celebrities (a whole entire wall was Lindsay Lohan tabloids), a pixelated copy of what looked like a Rothko piece, a sharp remark on the drug problem this nation has, a comparison of Google and our weaning privacy. But this, this one struck a core. I felt it criticized me directly, medicine directly, the physician directly. Any field in which we try to use our brains and forget we have hearts too.
Throughout this last year I have seen how difficult it is to balance in medicine, there is always a dichotomy lurking somewhere. We try to delineate the difference between treating illnesses and treating the humans with the illnesses and walk the fine line, occasionally wobbling side to side. We are instilled, from very early in our training, not to be the detached clinician, but we are taken so in depth, for so long, into the mechanism of the human body and disease that it becomes difficult to see the bigger picture. We are plagued with threats of depression, failure, even suicide, and for some reason our personalities and experiences prevent us from seeking help though we are always giving help. The system is set up with non stop knowledge to gain, tests to pass, insurance companies and hospital administrators that see dollar signs instead of a living, breathing human beings, the immense amount of stress and hope and guilt that comes with playing with fate. They play a role, and we are human too. We have emotions too. Sometimes there is only so much we can hold and contain. We are people who want to help people, we are perfectionist, and failures take a huge toll on us.
Of course art is about interpretation, and these words can be interpreted completely different, but with the fear of clinical detachment sitting in my amygdala it struck a core. I put a like, as a thank you, because it reminded me what not to do, who not to be, God willing.
With all things in medicine, we compartmentalize. We take our experiences, package them away, put them in one of our many white coat pockets, and continue on doing what we must do. I turned away, returned to a coffee shop, turned on my computer, and started studying once again.