I grew up as a ballerina. Ballet was my life, my identity. When I discovered a passion for medicine, many people questioned how I could reconcile dual interests in both ballet and medicine- such seemingly different disciplines. However, since entering the field of medicine, I have developed a fondness for the differences between these two worlds, while also continually being struck by the parallels I find every day between the two.
Still enamored by both ballet and medicine, I have come to appreciate even more the opportunities I have had both in tutus and in scrubs, and further come to relish even more so the similarities I find across both. It seemed a natural step for me to join the Medical Humanities Path of Excellence at the University of Michigan Medical School, one of several interest-based pathways students have the opportunity to join. In the Medical Humanities Path of Excellence, I’ve connected with likeminded classmates and faculty also interested in the arts and the intersection of the humanities and medical sciences. For my Capstone for Impact, I wanted to create a lasting art exhibit that would allow me to share my experience and connect with others who may have similar experiences blending their worlds and passions across disciplines.
For my project, I dove into a new form of art for me – photography! This exhibit depicts my journey integrating my love for ballet and medicine. Through the process of staging and capturing these images, I came to realize even more similarities between dance and medicine than I had before. Trying to integrate such seemingly different objects and imagery, I was struck by both the tension and dichotomy as well as the harmony and blending of the two worlds. When ideas for certain images came to mind, I was surprised each time by how seamlessly the scenes came together. My two worlds blended together even more smoothly than I ever imagined, something I have experienced in my life over the past few years as well as through the journey of taking these photos.
The collection begins with still life images, consisting of objects typically associated with medicine strewn with subjects classically associated with ballet and the arts, creating a playful tension between the two while also showing how seamlessly they can appear to integrate. These first few images are meant to be subtle. The photos become increasingly more forward in demonstrating the melding of ballet and medicine as the collection progresses. Furthermore, the editing and lighting in addition to the subjects become more dramatic in each subsequent photo. This parallels my own feelings toward reconciling my passions for art and medicine. Initially, I tried to keep my worlds separate and not allude to one or the other my dual allegiances. However, as is demonstrated through the images, over time I have become bolder in demonstrating my passions for both dance and medicine, and finding ways to ensure both remain a part of my life.
This exhibit is meant to evoke the feeling behind my personal transition from one career to the next, from ballerina to doctor. My hope is that this collection will inspire others to give thought to ways in which seemingly dichotomous aspects of their lives may be more similar or harmonious than they once thought, and to find beauty in the contrast. I had a blast creating this project and was delighted by how well received it was by my peers and mentors. This is just one example of the incredibly unique opportunities allotted to University of Michigan med students.
Here is my photo collection – I hope you enjoy!
Victoria Stoffers is a 4th-year medical student going into internal medicine. In her free time you can find her spending time by the Huron river near the medical school or practicing for Biorhythms, the biannual medical student dance show!