I have been painting, drawing, creating art for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid and needed an activity to do, my mom would provide me with art supplies. Now, as an adult, painting is how I unwind, relax, and reflect.
I just finished my M2 year, the clerkship year with patient care experience in the hospital. My days ranged from helping drive a camera for laparoscopic gall bladder removal to holding the hand of a neurology patient as he received care in the neuro ICU to attempting to examine a squirming toddler who was making it very clear that the last place she wanted to be was the pediatrician’s office. I saw patients on labor and delivery experience immense joy when their children were born, and I met patients and families on some of the hardest days of their lives in the emergency department.
I loved the busyness of the hospital and connecting with my patients and families, but I also had some long hours and emotionally hard days. I needed some time to turn off my clinical brain and just paint. Painting gave me the space to process the variety of experiences I had during my second year of medical school. One of the reasons I felt that the University of Michigan was the best fit for me for medical school was how supportive they were of my other interests outside of medicine such as painting.
M1 year, I joined a student organization called the M-Home Peer Support Advocacy. It was founded by my friend Claire Collins (M4) when she saw a need for a student-run organization focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of medical students. In one of our meetings at the end of M2 year, I realized that I wanted to give my peers a chance to have the peaceful, relaxing experience of creating art amidst the flurry of fall activity around the medical school. With the help of my Peer Support colleagues, I planned a painting workshop and partnered with M-Home, a medical school organization for student support.
I planned a landscape that I thought would be accessible to students of any or no painting experience. My roommate was kind enough to let me pilot the instructions with her before I opened signups for the fall painting class. Thirty-five students attended my painting session held in the Taubman Health Sciences Library. I was grateful for the chance to meet some of the students in the M1 and M2 classes. Due to the Covid pandemic, I hadn’t had much of a chance to meet many of my colleagues in other classes.
My favorite part of the painting class was that, in the beginning, almost everyone was following my instruction and by the end most people didn’t need to. From the outset, I wanted everyone to take ownership of their paintings and stated that no one had to follow my instructions. Most of my classmates ended up painting landscapes, and they all looked different because everyone began making different creative decisions. Students from all classes bonded over making art in just an hour-long session. More importantly, on a chilly, rainy October evening, a classroom in THSL was filled with conversation, creativity, and community.
Kristin Geczi is a third-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. She enjoys art, baking, working with patients of all abilities, and snuggling her cat.