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Vital Signs

Historical paintings give lecture hall a major face-lift

Two large impressionistic-style paintings of scenes from DMS history were recently hung in the Medical School's Chilcott Auditorium, noticeably changing the room's personality from drab and utilitarian to warm and inspiring. "The paintings make Chilcott a much more intimate space," says second-year student Natalia Berry. "It's such a fluorescent-lit place—a very industrial, sterile space—so the paintings definitely add warmth."

Colors: With their busy course schedules, including 20 hours a week of lectures in Chilcott, second- year students find the paintings a relaxing diversion. "I like that the colors are a bit muted . . . that the artist didn't go for a lot of clarity, sharp lines, definition; that by painting a little fuzzier and with less detail, each painting seems softer, more relaxed," says Mark McAllister, another second-year student.

In one painting, titled House Call, DMS's founder, Dr. Nathan Smith, sits astride a stately black horse while he instructs two medical students as they're about to visit a mother and her baby. The second painting, The First X-Ray, shows Dr. Gilman Frost, a DMS faculty member, conducting the first clinical x-ray in the nation—in Reed Hall at Dartmouth in 1896. Both are the work of artist Sara


Students who spend 20 hours a week in lectures here enjoy these new paintings.

Dykstra, and third-year DMS student Joseph Dwaihy also played a major role in the project.

House Call and First X-Ray are part of a trilogy that Dykstra and Dwaihy recently completed. The third painting in the series, Intensive Care, was hung outside Zimmerman Student Lounge at DHMC. It shows the first intensive care unit in the country, established at Hitchcock in 1955 by Dr. William Mosenthal.

In all three paintings, "the compassion of the figures is directed at a central lighted area," explains Dykstra. In House Call, the light is on the baby, a symbol of preservation of life. In First X-Ray, light is

focused on the machine, a symbol of medical technology. And in Intensive Care, light is directed toward the healing of a sick patient.

The similar layout of First XRay and House Call ties the two paintings together, adds Dykstra. For example, Dr. Frost, on the left in First X-Ray, is looking down at his timer, and the rider on the left in House Call is looking down at his horse's mane.

Intimate: Berry's favorite painting is House Call. "It encapsulates the essence of what medical care is, which is reaching out to people who are isolated and in need of help. It's an entirely different scene today. Patients come to this very high-tech hospital and physicians are booked to the max, but that painting is something to aspire toward . . . it's really the core of the physician- patient relationship. I like that. It reminds me of that intimate- helper role," she says.

"The paintings are visually stimulating," comments another second-year student, Joan Hier. "They give your mind a way to wander from lectures sometimes —in a good way," she quickly adds with a laugh, "because they're about medicine so you're not straying too far."

—Matthew C. Wiencke

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