Art & Poetry in Medicine, Clinical, Featured, Housestaff Wellness, Pediatrics
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A Story of Artistic Reclamation (2019)

A Story of Artistic Reclamation

Michael Barbato, MD (2019)
fingerpaint on canvas

Here I am, come and get me! A playful provocation we have all used with much more than literal meaning as a mantra. In the proverbial game of societal hide and seek, it is an alert; we want to be found. It is a vote of self-confidence to the world, as in the, “Here I am, the place I ought to be” Louise Erdrich manner of speaking. For me it is all these things, and most importantly, it is an invitation to be a proud, unique, individual in medicine. But going through the rigors, chills and metaphorical bacteremia of medical education, I lost some of the pieces that made me confident to be myself.

It wasn’t until my third year of residency that I realized I had even lost big portions of what made me a total unit. That the universal slogan we all hear in-training, “Just take it one day at a time,” would not work anymore. I had taken it one day at a time, which sneakily became months at a time, then years. I wanted to see myself as the expressive person I grew up as, not as a time mortgaging “uncreative.” I had lost my sense of expression in my identity. Those things that made me ‘well-rounded’ — to use the buzzword — writing and poetry, drawing and sculpting, were suddenly missing from my portfolio. Once I realized what I was missing — art — I wanted it back.

I covered myself in artistic integrity — fingerpaint — and never-nude shorts, and dove onto the canvas. Swimming in paint, I found a deep pool of creativity. And Here I am.

I produced several body focused paintings exploring the nature of my own identity in medicine. Each piece carries this theme of “Here I am.” The paintings are one tone on a complimentary background, each with a single splash of accent color, meant to stand out against the rest of the piece as a visual representation of my theme. The paintings are body focused and loosely anatomical, marrying my artistic self and medical self into one harmonious individual.

This manuscript was submitted to the April 2019 Arts in Medicine theme issue.

Michael Barbato, MD Michael Barbato, MD (1 Posts)

Fellow Physician Contributing Writer

Johns Hopkins University / National Institutes of Health

Dr. Michael Barbato is a pediatric hematology oncology fellow at Johns Hopkins University/National Institutes of Health. He is specializing in epigenetic research and considering a bone marrow transplant clinical focus. He is interested in advocating for maintaining professional and personal life balance in medicine and physician burnout. He is particularly passionate about the arts and how they can be used as expressions in medicine. He can be found on Instagram @mibarbato.