Medicine and the Arts

Updated: Oct 31

By Madeleine Upham


By Madeleine Upham


As someone who has always been torn between the arts and the sciences my A-level options summed me up perfectly: Biology, Chemistry and Art. These subjects were the perfect choice for me as they combined my strengths, as well as my passions. Regardless of whether I had chosen to study Art, being creative is an integral part of who I am and I know I would have continued to create artwork anyway. Each of these subjects played an important role in forming me into the medical student and human being I am today, with art arguably being the most important (yes Rishi, the arts are important even to doctors!)

While Biology may have taught me the cardiac cycle and Chemistry allowed me to understand the principles of pharmacology, it is through Art that I learned to think creatively, to problem solve and to create human connections. With physiology and pathology there is more often than not a right or ‘most right’ answer which can be learnt, however the interpersonal skills that are essential to create a strong patient-doctor relationship come with practice. A-level art gave me a head start at this by opening my mind to human emotions and the variety of individuals and perspectives that exist within society. This has proved especially useful in my Communiation for Clinical Practice sessions and I am sure will continue to be useful on placement.

Studying A-level Art taught me the value of prioritising and managing my time which has proved essential, especially this year as I juggle pre recorded lectures, in person teaching , Zoom committee meetings and attempt to have a socially distanced social life!

On a more practical note, Art honed my fine motor skills which has so far come in useful while practicing clinical examinations, for example percussion. Currently my aspiration is to be a plastic surgeon (with 3 years left of medical school I am aware this may change!) however I know that these fine motor skills will also serve me well in surgery.

Art has even found its way into my extra curricular activities and social life. Some of my highlights of medical school so far have included designing the cover for our medical students magazine ‘the Sphincter’ and being part of the backstage team, including designing and painting sets, for two performances. Not only did these experiences enable me to make more time for creativity, they also enabled me to make new friends, especially across older years, and they have provided me with invaluable advice and guidance.

Being on a degree with so many contact hours can make it difficult to manage a part time job, so Art has even provided me with some income by doing commissions, tattoo designs and most recently t-shirt designs.

Regardless of external stresses, either from my degree or the current state of the world, art offers me an escape and a way to relax.

I urge you to rethink the black and white division we are taught exists between the sciences and the arts and rethink how you can get in touch with your creative side.

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