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Preserving the past in paint

Some people write about historical events to preserve the past. But DMS student Joseph Dwaihy and artist Sara Dykstra picked up paintbrushes rather than pens. They have just completed two historical paintings of DMS scenes, each six feet tall by eight feet wide, which will be displayed on the side walls in DMS's Chilcott Auditorium. One is of the first clinical x-ray in the U.S., which took place at Dartmouth in 1896. The other is of DMS founder Nathan Smith and two medical students making a house call on horseback in the late 1700s. Dwaihy, a second- year student, decided to do the project as part of an ongoing effort to incorporate the arts into the DMS curriculum and recruited his friend Dykstra to join in the effort.

The painting pictured above, depicting the first clinical xray, is based on a photograph taken in Reed Hall at Dartmouth in 1896. Dr. Gilman Frost, a DMS faculty member, and his brother Edwin, a Dartmouth astronomer, produced the x-ray after a 20-minute exposure. The achievement was published in Science on February 14, 1896.

Dykstra and Dwaihy pose with one of their two life-sized paintings.

Both Dwaihy and Dykstra are experienced painters and illustrators. Dwaihy has done figurative painting since high school, and Dykstra has a B.F.A. in painting from the Maryland Institute College of Art. For her senior thesis, on art as a resource for healing, she painted a series of 200 seven-inch by nine-inch paintings of the same rooftop scene in Baltimore, "melding the transition of light with the transition of time and process," she explains. She and Dwaihy also tried to create a sense of healing in their DMS paintings—along with a feeling of authenticity—by using sepia and earth tones.

Once the paintings are installed in Chilcott Auditorium, it will give medical students something to reflect on during the many hours they spend there in class. "We hope [the] paintings will highlight the rich history of medicine at Dartmouth," says Dwaihy, as well as the fact "that humanity has always been part of the practice of medicine." M.C.W.

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