“The idea of the practice of medicine as an art is not new.”
—Dr. Molly O’Dell, assistant professor, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

Since the early Greek philosophers waxed poetic about their scientific theories, art and science have been intertwined. This kinship extends to the field of medicine, where being a caring health provider involves as much art as science.

At the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, faculty and students embrace the arts and the roles it can play in both education and the practice of medicine. With that idea in mind, the Creativity in Health Education Program was launched to expand the social, cultural, and humanistic awareness of the school’s students, faculty, and staff by integrating the arts into their daily routines.

The program also serves as a way to involve community members in the life of the school. The program accomplishes these goals through a variety of events. Most prominent thus far have been the regular art shows kicked off by public openings of the different exhibits.

Local and national artists have contributed to the shows, as have Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine medical students, faculty members, and their families. The artwork not only enriches the space of the medical school’s physical space, it also imparts the humanistic side of medicine on students and those who work in the building.

Early in 2013 another major initiative was launched by the program – an annual poetry writing competition open to medical students, master of fine arts students at Virginia Tech, undergraduate students at Virginia Tech, and members of the Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health program. With special guest judges, monetary awards, and celebration events in downtown Roanoke, the inaugural program received many excellent submissions. The poetry competition took place for two years.

The program also co-sponsors events with other regional organizations from time to time. One example is a recent lecture from John Bramblitt, an internationally renowned painter who lost his sight early on in his life and before he began his career as an artist. Besides the inspirational lecture, a live painting session took place with the resulting work featured in the subsequent art show at the medical school.

As it was put by David Trinkle, associate dean for community culture and committee member of the Creativity in Health Education Program, “Art can enhance a person’s adaption to illness as well as promote recovery. John’s message reinforces this holistic, patient-centered approach to health care that we teach our students."