MEDICINE / PERSONAL

How drawing class led me on the PA path

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One of my high school study hall anatomy sketches

I thought I discovered my love for science in high school, in the sharp, formaldehyde smell of anatomy lab, and the warm afternoons in chemistry. Even though I’d chosen art as my career path, I still took an astronomy elective my senior year, mixed among graphic design and painting classes. I enjoyed the puzzle of punnett squares, the world which opened up when I looked through the lens of a microscope. I’d always been a child that enjoyed school; during summer break, I’d prefer to sit in the sun reading and basking in my imagination than running and playing.

I recently went through a box of old worksheets and drawings my mom stashed away from my childhood. Among the stick figure drawings and spelling tests, I found a simple worksheet which asked my favorite subjects in school. Written in chunky, capital letters was the response “art and siyense”. Once I’d sounded it out, I realized that even at the age of 6, I’d found joy in science (and I had a lot to learn about spelling).

Fast forward to sophomore year of high school, a point in my life during which I am not in love with science, and the only classes I’m passionate about are photography and drawing. My drawing class is mainly still life studies, the classroom is filled with hundreds of odd objects, a compilation of old wine bottles, colorful plastic toys, and the dregs of garage sales. The first few still lives are massive mounds that fill the entire length of the classroom. When we enter the room, the still life is surrounded by a ring of easels, so each student can pick the angle we wish to draw. Each new still life, I find myself drawn to sections containing parts of an old skeleton from the anatomy lab. I am mesmerized by the curves of the bones, the way light bounces off their prominences and creates deep shadows in joint sockets.

Before long, I begin spending my study hall period flipping through anatomy books and sketching. By the next semester, I find myself signing up for anatomy class, to get an inside look at the structures that fascinate me. In anatomy class, though, I find myself newly captivated, not just by the form of the organs and muscles, but by the desire to understand how they function.

Through the rest of high school, I continued to take art courses, but also carried on rediscovering my love of science. It took me up until junior year of college to narrow down the capacity in which I wanted to work in science, having considered veterinary medicine, MD/DO, medical illustration, and finally settling on PA. Now, at the age of 23, I still continue creative pursuits, I’m even starting an oil painting class next week! I think it’s important to balance out our medical careers/educations with outside passions, and they may even help enrich your career. I’d love to hear all about your outside interests and the reasons you got into medicine!

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