Dartmouth Medical School

For Release: November 10, 2004
Contact: DMS Communications (603) 650-1492

Art in Medicine Recognized

HANOVER, NH - In a festive gathering at the Hanover Inn, Dartmouth Medical School (DMS) lauded two contributions to the role of the arts in the medical arena. The first presentation was a gift of a painting from Dr. C. Everett Koop, by an artist whose pioneering efforts laid the foundation for the connection between medicine and art. The second illustrated ways that DMS students have built upon that foundation to produce a substantial and thought-provoking medical literary journal.

DMS Dean Stephen Spielberg, welcomed the students and staff and Koop, professor of surgery, of community and family medicine and of psychiatry, whom he introduced as a remarkable resource in public health. Koop was on hand to donate a painting to the school by Joseph Wilder, MD, a surgeon and former student of Koop's, who later became a respected painter and depicted surgeons in all of his works.

Through this gesture, Koop said that he hoped that by hanging this print in the medical school, it would "remind people that you can start out here with no intent on being an artist and then become the world's outstanding artist on painting life in the operating room." The painting, "Contemplation Before Surgery," is among Wilder's most well known, and shows a masked surgeon in scrubs gathering his thoughts before operating on a patient. Wilder, Dartmouth College class of 1942 and a professor of surgery at Mount Sinai Medical School, passed away in 2003 and will be long-remembered as a surgeon who, whether holding a scalpel or a paint brush, was respected by his medical colleagues.

In a fitting tribute to Wilder's artistic legacy, his piece "Contemplation Before Surgery," graces the cover of Lifelines, a new student-led DMS literary journal launched in July. According to Spielberg, the journal "really explores some of the more creative aspects of medicine and art, poetry and prose and goes to the heart of Dr. Wilder's paintings." The dean said he was particularly impressed with the drive of DMS students who, in addition to the full-time rigors of classes and training, were still able to find time to serve the local and literary communities.

Editor-in-chief Sai Li, describes the journal as a literary collage that offers a much-needed creative outlet for doctors and patients. Li read his award winning poem, "Red East," and spoke of his hope that Lifelines "will enhance the atmosphere of the health-care community by instilling in its readers a respect for the enduring human spirit and a profound hope for better understanding and dialogue between doctors and patients."

The evening ended with a reading of the poem, "Mary Fletcher Hospital, 1958," by its author, Parker Towle, MD, an adjunct associate professor of medicine at DMS, who wrote it as a third year medical student in the old Hanover, NH hospital. Towle also voiced his appreciation of the efforts of the students involved in putting together the inaugural issue of "Lifelines," and promised to continue to contribute to future issues. DMS students will aim to continue enhancing the role of arts in the practice of medicine, whether in verse or in paint, for many years to come.