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UNLIT SHADOWS

Written by Adina Smith


It was around halfway through sitting the BMAT for the second time, whilst quickly calculating just how much money was earned from an unnecessarily complicated cake stall, that I started to doubt whether my decision to go to medical school over art school had actually been a sensible one. I have always had these two main interests that divided my time between two worlds. After all, the arts just don’t fit into the important STEM subjects, right? Ironic, seeing as teachers tell you not to bother applying to medicine unless you are grade eight in an instrument or captain of a sports team, and of course have the English capabilities to ensure your personal statement catches the reader from the first sentence. No one will bother to read on otherwise, as I was told… As a result of all this, so many of ICSM are incredibly talented musicians, actors, writers, poets, artists and much more. During my BSc year in Medical Humanities I got to witness this talent, and my two divided worlds were not only allowed but encouraged to merge.

During my project I attempted to determine whether practicing art can be used as a method to improved clinicians’ understanding and management of miscarriage. I produced daily artistic responses as a form of autoethnographic study to evaluate whether the process of creating art from research can enable us to engage with the patient experience. Through the art process I considered aspects of miscarriage I had not previously thought about, from the prevalence of miscarriage related flashbacks to the difficulty of mourning a child without a tangible grave. One theme that repeatedly arose during the art process was the difficulty of watching your body return to normal after miscarriage, or even seeing your body unchanged by an event that has had such a large impact on your life. After realising many of my drawings focused on this theme, I produced three final pieces named ‘Unlit Shadows’. Each of the figures is shrouded within a chaos of paint, reflecting the hidden experience of miscarriage that often goes unacknowledged by our society. The shadows focus on physical changes of miscarriage and consequences this can have mentally. The process of actively drawing and painting the female body, both pregnant and not, led me to reflect on the more subtle difficulties. These difficulties are the ones that are so important when trying to appreciate the complexities of the patient experience. The art process encouraged extended reflection, enabling me to acknowledge the psychosocial aspects of miscarriage with future patients.

I wholeheartedly believe that eradicating the divide between the art and the science worlds will have hugely beneficial impacts for all. Medical humanities and their methods of teaching have a great potential for improving medical care in a way that will benefit both the clinician and the patient. This is beginning to be acknowledged as the arts are starting to be integrated into medical schools and given their due appreciation. Perhaps in the future students won’t have to make a finite decision between art and science, as medical education is starting to realise that the best doctors get to learn from both.


About the Artist

Adina Smith, Year 5

“For me, art has always been a way to relax and reset. Studying Art at A level provided me with a pleasant reprise from a very science-orientated life. Since starting at ICSM I have struggled to give as much time to my art as I would like, however I have made the most of summers off painting and sketching in a variety of styles. I have shifted from painting dog portraits for commissions, to some more exotic animals, to dramatic mountain scenes. Most of my work prior to 2020 had been experimental and aesthetic, rather than focusing on portraying meaning. My most recent work for my BSc project, however, has focused on the potential and communicative power of art in medical education.”


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