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Doodling to Learn Medicine


natter_michaelGrowing up, I always struggled with math and science. My teachers encouraged me to pursue my more natural talents, which were in the arts and humanities. I never thought I could make it in medical school with my hard science deficiencies and my unstructured, creative way of understanding concepts. It wasn’t until the end of my undergraduate career that I developed enough academic confidence in myself that I was able to realize my passion and potential as a doctor.  Upon first starting medical school, I did my best to adjust my study habits to what I thought were the safe and traditional method—such as rote memorizing flash cards, typing outlines, highlighting, and re-reading textbooks—and I struggled. My grades were mediocre, but what was more concerning was I felt I was not retaining the information and in some cases, not understanding it fully. I began illustrating my notes with diagrams and cartoons. I even traded my notebook for a sketchbook and I watched as my understanding, retention, and grades significantly improved. As I made my way through the intense coursework and transitioned into the clinical years, my illustration hobby took on a new cathartic role—it has been helping me cope with the emotional and non-academic stresses that this long medical journey entails. As Dr. William Osler once said, “The practice of medicine is an art, not a trade; a calling, not a business; a calling in which your heart will be exercised equally with your head. Often the best part of your work will have nothing to do with potions and powders, but with the exercise of an influence of the strong upon the weak, of the righteous upon the wicked, of the wise upon the foolish.” While being a scientist is important, being an artist is paramount to becoming a truly great physician.

Follow Mike on Instagram here – check out a selection of some of his medical doodles below: