A spoonful of arts and humanities

Take a little piece of my heart by artist Shannon Snyder

“‘Take a little piece of my heart’ is where my passion for painting and love of anatomy are joined together as an outlet for self expression,” says Registered Nurse and artist Shannon Snyder, BN’14, MSc(A)’16, about her painting, above, which was featured in Journeys Through Health, an exhibit held at the Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre. (Photo: Susan Ge, MDCM’16)

A group at the McGill Faculty of Medicine has been exploring medicine’s artistic side and coming up with novel activities in the process.

Jiameng Xu formed McGill Humanities and Arts in Medicine (McHAM) with Rajam Raghunathan, Erin Luxenberg, BA & Sc, and Rebecca Hoffer in 2014. All medical students at the time, they were interested in literature and inspired by people like the late author and neurologist Oliver Sacks. They also wanted to capitalize on the diverse interests of their fellow students, whose backgrounds included philosophy, anthropology and even spoken word.

Xu, now a PhD student in Rehabilitation Science at the McGill School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, who plans to resume her MDCM studies when she completes her degree next year, says being exposed to medicine’s narratives helps her to better understand patients and not miss out on “the bigger picture.”

The group, which counts more than 60 mostly undergraduate medical students, has organized several activities, notably Journeys Through Health, an exhibit held at the Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre in spring 2016. Works tackled such themes as aplastic anemia, mental illness and patient boredom.

McHAM recently instituted a lending library of books, curated by Professor Rick Fraser, BSc, MDCM’76; welcomed an anthropologist who spoke about how bacteria in the gut can be said to form communities; and launched the Little Oslers Reading Club for students. As their first book, the Little Oslers tackled When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon-turned-patient.

Xu also wants to correlate activities with the core curriculum. One idea, she says, is to hold a life drawing class that would dovetail with one of the muscle groups being studied.

Exposure to the arts is not the ultimate goal for Xu. Instead, it is a springboard to an eventual medical practice informed by other disciplines: “I want to become a better physician.” (Philip Fine)

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4 Responses to “A spoonful of arts and humanities
  1. It would be nice if there was more than just a credit to the photographer of this painting 🙂
    Maybe the artist 😉

    Shannon Snyder RN, BN

  2. Kat says:

    Hi- perhaps you might actually credit the artist as well…it’s one of my extremely talented friends, and devoted nurse Shannon Snyder.

  3. Natalie says:

    It would’ve been nice to have credited the wonderful artist who’s work is in the picture you featured.

    Her name is Shannon Snyder, she is an accomplished nurse and an artist. You can view some of her pieces on : https://www.facebook.com/ShannonSnyderArt/?fref=ts

  4. karine says:

    Can you at least credit the artist? Seriously, McGill? This is a bit embarrassing for you! Shannon Snyder deserves her credit just as much as you deserve your page views.