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Art of Medicine


By Shirley Liu ('15)
Colored pencil, 14" by 17"

Third-year medical student Shirley Liu enjoys the process of unwrapping a present almost as much as the present itself. "I feel it's the same way with approaching medical problems," she says. "It's the interview and work-up of a patient that excite me, especially because a single approach doesn't work for everyone. Some packages are triple enforced with packaging tape while others are loosely tied with a string."

People can be beautifully and impeccably wrapped on the outside but actually need a lot of help.

It's a theme she explores in her drawing Presents, which she says represents the need to find a way to unwrap the "outer packaging" of a person. "A doctor needs to ask the right questions and find the appropriate approach to individual patients in order to figure out what's really going on inside," she adds. "People can be beautifully and impeccably wrapped on the outside but actually need a lot of help."

Liu "stumbled into art" when she was very young, after her parents discovered her "incessant doodling on any surface." She started learning watercolors with a teacher in Ottawa, Canada, where she grew up. She learned photography as well, working as a photojournalist while a student at UCLA. She finds it "soothing" to draw or paint anything "with lots of folds, creases, or cracks."

The precision and attention to detail in her art, she says, "has helped especially with the procedural aspects of my third-year clerkships, such as in suturing."

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