As I examined histological slides, I was struck by the simple beauty of the human body on a microscopic level. These images—still silhouettes of chondrocytes in the hyaline cartilage of joints, scattered pyramidal cells in the cerebral cortex of the brain, pebble-like adipocytes of fat—were each works of art. And, I realized, they all exist within me.
In his artwork, The Art of Anatomy, (Intima, Spring 2014), Khalil Harbie also turns his gaze inward to realize the art of the human body on a macroscopic level. He seems fascinated in the musculature of the forearm— the bulk of the brachioradialis, the careful curvature of the flexor carpi radialis, even a hint of the flexor digitorum superficialis. His intricate shading brings to life the texture and dimensionality of the forearm within a planar space, illustrating the very structures that enable this sketch.
Introspection enables a new way of seeing oneself that permeates into how one views and interacts with the external world. Only with introspection, I posit, can we begin to connect with those around us and truly achieve empathy. The core skills of doctoring, of listening and adequately responding to the suffering of other human beings, depend on an understanding of the self.
The human body, and human life as whole, is aesthetic by nature. We are colorful, we are shapely, we are beautiful. Art is at the heart of scientific studies like histology and anatomy because, in essence, art is the heart of humanity.
Trisha Paul is a fourth year medical student at the University of Michigan Medical School. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in English with Honors along with minors in Biochemistry and Medical Anthropology. With interests in pediatric oncology and palliative care, she published a book based on her thesis called Chronicling Childhood Cancer: A Collection of Personal Stories by Children and Teens with Cancer. Trisha enjoys learning, researching, and teaching about illness narratives, and she is interested in how narrative medicine enhances humanism in medicine. Trisha Paul is on the editorial board of Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine.
© 2017 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine