At the Intersection of Art and Science

tube graft

I taught myself to draw during medical school when I couldn’t figure out the three dimensional relations of structures. I discovered that if you just draw the shading of an object, it pops out in three dimensions. Over the years, I took to carrying little notebooks to sketch out anatomy and proposed operations for patients through this medium. While I found this to be a handy tool that I used only occasionally, since moving to Abu Dhabi, where much of my communicating is done through an interpreter, my drawings carry a much greater weight as direct communication of my thoughts and intentions.

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Drawing helps the patient and family understand the unseeable. It gives form to words that are often confused like blood vessel, graft, stent, artery, and vein.

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What is informed consent when patient’s cannot describe their problems to their friends and relatives what the problem is and what is going to be done about it?

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I usually draw with the pen in my shirt pocket and some copier paper, but sitting down and doing a proper sketch is soothing and very helpful for me as the surgeon to previsualize the goals that I have to reach during an operation to take the patient across the finish line. During meetings and conferences, I sketch into one of those fancy bound notebooks that I collect.

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Funny thing is I was doodling during class as a kid, but it was spaceships, not aneurysms.

While pencil and markers do a fine job, the real magic is in using tablet based sketching software, using layers, to build serial images of the steps of an operation.

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I am increasingly tempted to use these images as my operative note, but understanding that words are needeed for billing, I comply. Even so, I find it helpful to put these illustrations on my EMR notes, because it allows everyone to see and understand what I saw and what I did. I leave you with some of my illustrations with attached comments.

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Long segment disease stents in their natural occluded state

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Our best shot

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The nutcracker
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The fractal
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Hybridized aorto-bi-iliac revascularization
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Retrieving the unretrievable embedded filter
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3 step treatment of a type II thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm
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Dysphagia lusoria, treated
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Targets under the ulcer
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I’m not sure this really works
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An off pump CABG for a vascular surgeon
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Phase 1

Phase 2