Art and Medicine: Teaching about illness through art

The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has been working in conjunction with guest artist Ted Meyer for the past five years to educate doctors about illness through art. Meyer curates artist talks and exhibitions that are designed for first and second year medical students, most of whom have not yet had an opportunity to work with patients in person. Helping to give doctors a more human understanding of living with aliments, artists speak about their condition, their artworks, and the relationship between the two.

Ted Meyer, “Structural Abnormalities” Series. 1992-2004. Oil on Canvas. Copyright Ted Meyer

Although Meyer began his relationship with the medical school in 2010, his connection with the idea goes back to his birth when he was diagnosed with Gaucher’s disease, a disorder in which fatty substances accumulate in cells and organs. Some effects include bruising, fatigue, anemia and skeletal disorders, which led to Meyer being in and out of hospitals a majority of his life. This in turn pushed him towards art as a means of expression, release and inner healing.

A new treatment allowed for Meyer’s symptoms to disappear and in the process he found himself loosing his artistic direction. He began to invite others to share their artwork of healing and trauma as a way to share their personal story and this pushed him to pursue the UCLA partnership: “It became very apparent to me that all these people who do work about their illnesses, really have a lot to say,” Meyer said. “Maybe they could teach something to medical professionals. There has been art therapy designed to help patients, but I thought maybe there is something to teach the doctors here. Perhaps they can look at patients’ artworks and see something beyond the clinical. It’s not just ‘oh, they have multiple sclerosis’ or ‘it’s a broken neck.’ In a way, it’s like art therapy for doctors.”

Art and Medicine: Teaching about illness through art

Damienne Merlina, “Bandaid”

The Center for Educational Development and Research at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA sponsors a rotating series of shows in the Learning Resource Center curated by Ted Meyer. The current show is NubRising with works by Damienne Merlina that is on display until June 30 which focuses on one’s relationship and experience with one’s self.








More Readings:

Icons of Modern Art. The Shchukin Collection, Hermitage Museum – Pushkin Museum

Art and Immigration

Gerhard Richter: How Living Artists Impact Their Legacy

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