Medical students and physicians have numerous opportunities to exercise their problem-solving skills, research capabilities and scientific knowledge. But they don't often get to show off their artistic side. That's where The UCLA Beat comes in.
The UCLA Beat is an annual publication that showcases literature and artwork created by students from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and other members of UCLA Health. It has been examining the role of arts in medical education since 1998.
This year's issue debuted on March 31 at the annual launch party. Here, Christine Shieh, co-editor-in-chief, talks about the launch, her favorite works in this year's issue and why a medical school needs a literary magazine.
Celebrating a job well done
The magazine's editorial staff are all medical students, but they accept submissions from anyone in the UCLA health system — students, faculty and UCLA hospital employees alike. The team chooses roughly 40 works of art including poetry, essays, photos and paintings to fill the magazine's 50 pages.
When the new issue is ready for distribution, the Student Affairs Office hosts a launch party and invites the entire UCLA health system.
This year's launch party was held in the courtyard of the Center for the Health Sciences building. "Probably 200 people stopped by to pick up copies, and everyone seemed to have a good time," says Shieh. "What really struck me was how excited the contributors were and how happy it made them to see their artwork in print. They came up and thanked us or sent emails expressing their appreciation. It was really gratifying to see how much people cared."
The intersection of arts and medicine
What's the role of arts in medical education? That's what Shieh asked Itai Danovitch, MD, MBA, a physician at Cedars Sinai who formed the publication with two other David Geffen School of Medicine classmates nearly 20 years ago.
"He wanted an outlet for medical students who were interested in art or literature — a way for them to express their thoughts and feelings about medicine in a different format," explains Shieh.
For Shieh, who has been painting for years, art isn't just a creative outlet but also a way to de-stress. "When I go outside and enjoy the scenery, or go to an art museum, my day gets better," she says. "Just expressing myself through painting is a calming experience. Hospitals often have painting programs for patients and faculty. It's very soothing for medical students and physicians to enjoy other forms of expression and creativity."
Hot off the press
Although contributions don't have to be about medicine, many of this year's submissions were, including Shieh's favorite piece of literature: "It was about an older man slowly suffering from a heart attack. It was really subtle and engrossing, and just a beautiful piece of writing."
On the visual arts side, her favorite work was the painting that made the cover. "A fourth-year medical student submitted a painting of a woman with blue hair coming out of the ocean. It was so beautiful and mystical."
Shieh and co-editor Christina Harview are now helping to recruit staff for next year's issue. But she knows the magazine will be in good hands. A first-year student who served as layout editor this year will take on one of the editor-in-chief roles. Along with a team of medical students, she'll have the support of staff and faculty of the David Geffen School of Medicine.
"Even though students spearhead the magazine, there's a lot of faculty support," Shieh
says. "It was nice to see how many of them were interested in supporting arts and literature, as well as medicine."
By Taylor Mallory Holland