2012 Best Breaths
Earlier this year, during their Pulmonology Block, Dr. Haponik provided the Class of 2012 with a canvas that was initially populated by two Chinese calligraphy characters for breath (inhale and exhale), that was placed in their classroom. Students were encouraged by Dr. Haponik to add their own creative contributions, and they sequentially added their own artistic elements, until the collage presented here was developed. Additionally, students were asked on their Pulmonology Block exam to draw a picture of their own personal “best breaths.” These were then added to the collage. Click on the picture to zoom in and see the little circles, each of which represents a personal “best breath” that a member of the Class of 2012 experienced and drew. Also, below is an excerpt of a letter that Dr. Haponik wrote to the Class of 2012 when the final image was ready, which explains some of its imagery.
While your initial clinical rotations flash by, your first two years of Medical School are appropriately becoming rapidly- fading memories. As you reminisce about a time when you had to memorize PowerPoint facts seemingly dissociated from real patients and families, attached is a flashback from your second-year Respiratory Block. (I hope that the size of the file doesn’t crash your computer and that the memory isn’t excessively painful.)
You may recall that we began with a blank canvas, drawing the two Chinese calligraphy characters for breath (inhale and exhale) and sequentially adding images representing each of the lectures during the block. After dots were connected and layers of color were added, I hope that you saw a face emerge to remind you that despite the mass of facts, the person remains central to all that we do. You might also see flowers to remind you of the beauty, privilege, and joy always present (although sometimes hidden) within each day. Each of you then provided what elevates this primitive scrawl to a work of art: asked to perform the impossible task of illustrating the best of your millions of breaths to date, you delivered an inspiring individual and collective message.
As with a “Where’s Waldo?” challenge from childhood, you might try to find several clinically relevant components of this painting: the shifty oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve; spirograms and flow volume curves; an eosinophil; West’s elegant model of ventilation and perfusion matching; a granuloma; honeycomb lung; a differential diagnosis of alveolar hypoventilation; a tracheobronchial tree (anatomically correct as Dr. Bo would require); and etiologies of community and healthcare-associated pneumonia.
Even more importantly, you should rediscover the class exhortation posted over the G-28 archway; three lifetime recommendations shared passionately by our patients during their visit with you; diverse expressions of love, language and song; personal athletic triumphs and worldwide journeys; ocean sunsets and scaled mountain peaks; proposals, weddings and newborn babes; religious enlightenment; families, families and yet more families. Life.
Although this work is entitled “2012 Best Breaths,” by now you realize that your very best breaths are yet to come, and that you can, must, and will celebrate each of these blessings wholeheartedly as you strive to care and to cure. After applying a few more coats of varnish, I’ll finally give this painting to your Class President and you can decide what to do with it.
With greatest respect and warmest personal regards,
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