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Creative Arts

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine launched the Creativity in Health Education program in an effort to expand the social, cultural, and humanistic awareness of the school’s students, faculty and staff by integrating the arts in to their daily routines. The program allows faculty and students to embrace the arts and understand the role that art can play in both education and the practice of medicine, as well as involve the community members in the life of the school.

The program accomplishes these goals through a variety of community events. Most prominent thus far have been the regular art shows that include public openings. Local and national artists have contributed to the shows, as have VTCSOM medical students and faculty. As of spring 2019, 22 different shows have been unveiled in the halls of the medical school. The artwork not only enhances the medical school’s physical space, it also imparts the humanistic side of medicine on students and those who work in the building.

In the summer / fall of 2020, we featured Art for the Journey, whose mission is to overcome barriers to transform lives through art. Because of COVID restrictions we were unable to have an in-person event and instead created an online show. 

In the fall of 2019, we featured three collections from local artist Jane Lilian Vance. Ms. Vance’s work focused on how medicine, humanity, spirituality, and the physical world all twist through time together. 

VTCSOM collaborated with Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge to highlight the various ways that artists interpret the beauty found in Roanoke and surrounding areas. With this show, the school was able to demonstrate the impact our surroundings have on recruiting students, faculty and physicians to our region. 

In addition to the regular art shows, VTCSOM holds a semi-annual Mini Med Schools. Some of the topics studied have been the relationship between art and research science, artists and anatomy, and the beauty of a scar. The 2019 mini medical school was presented in partnership with the Taubman Museum and focused on the importance of keen observation skills as related to art and medical diagnosis. The practice of visual thinking strategies (VTS) involves focusing discussion on the elements of an artwork - like perspective, color, experience, and perception – in order to help the viewer communicate what they see to their peer group. Recent literature has shown the valuable inclusion of VTS in medical education, and partnerships like that between VTC and the Taubman have proven beneficial to both institutions.

The Creativity in Health Education program also periodically sponsors poetry writing competitions for medical students, students from Jefferson College of Health Sciences, master of fine arts students at Virginia Tech, undergraduate students at Virginia Tech, and members of VTC’s Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health program. This competition, which began in early 2013, features special guest judges and monetary awards. It has received many excellent submissions over the years. Poetry in the Waiting Room, a publication at Carilion Clinic, includes some of the winning entries from VTCSOM medical students and VTC research professionals.

Looking forward, the Creativity in Health Education program will be working on a new initiative involving the art of interviewing and storytelling. Because illness can challenge the notion of self, and self-doubt can slow the process of healing, many scholars have recently begun to recommend the time-honored practice of storytelling as a way to promote that healing. Storytelling and narrative medicine can help patients to take control of their illness in a way that pharmaceuticals cannot. Students will use the Healthstorian, VTCSOM’s mobile oral history studio, as a lab to practice this form of healing.

David Trinkle, Associate Dean of Community and Culture says of the Creativity in Health Education Program, “Art can enhance a person’s adaption to illness as well as promote recovery. We hope that the programs and shows that we feature at our school reinforce a holistic, patient-centered approach to healthcare that will benefit the students as well as the community as a whole.”