Rx/Museum Pairs Medicine and Art

Professors at the University of Pennsylvania and local museum practitioners have teamed up to create Rx/Museum, a weekly newsletter intended to get physicians thinking about medicine in tandem with the humanities.

Rx/Museum pairs an artwork from a Philadelphia museum with an essay written by a member of the editorial team. The essays cover themes that focus on the humanity of medical practice. An October 19th post examines the painting “Healing of Lazarus” and asks how art can help “de-stigmatizing value-laden diseases.” Another uses Zoe Leonard’s “Strange Fruit” to look at homophobia, systemic racism, and inequality within the clinic.

The Rx/Museum project is lead by Penn faculty directors Aaron Levy and Lyndsay Hoy. Hoy, who teaches Clinical Anesthesiology and Critical Care, told the Daily Pennsylvanian how the project grew out of her recent diagnosis with a rare lung disease lymphangioleiomyomatosis and confronting what it meant to be both a physician and a patient. Hoy began hosting and attending workshops at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for internal medicine residents that used art to help residents reflect on their experience in medicine. These workshops inspired the future Rx/Museum project.

Rx/Museum works with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Barnes Foundation, The Slought Foundation, and The Center for Digital Art to source art. A team of curators from Philadelphia museums and Penn Medicine selected fifty-two artworks to cover in the newsletter.

Since its inception, Rx/Museum has garnered a broad audience that includes clinicians, scholars, patients, and students. “It’s brought about a lot of really interesting conversations. It’s very heartening to see that if you put something like this out there is an interest and people who want to engage with it,” Hoy said.