Art and Medicine
History reflects the intersection of medicine and the arts. The world’s medical community has always been at the forefront of creatively viewing and solving maladies while weaving altruism and expertise. The works of classically trained professionals like Alberto Burri, Charles Bell and Constantin Brancusi are some of the finest examples of the outreach potential for art and medicine. In the present, artists and doctors are still merging medicine and the creative arts, spreading their healing practice through mediums as unexpected as their duality. This article highlights four individuals who gracefully balance this duality.

Emtithal ‘Emi’ Mahmoud

Sudanese UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Emtithal Mahmoud is the embodiment of a multi-disciplinarian, balancing her dual degrees in Anthropology and Biology with a win at The Slam Poetry World Championship in 2015 with her poem “Mama.”

Mahmoud and her parents fled Darfur, arriving in the United States in 1998. The blending of poetry, biology, anthropology and activism may seem unlikely. The poet described her thoughts on the synergy in an interview with NPR, “I study people from the inside and people from the outside.”

Through her charitable outreach and activism, Mahmoud brings awareness to the plight of refugees and, more recently, to those the pandemic impacted. Mahmoud performs and hosts poetry workshops, while also visiting field camps. Additionally, Mahmoud is pursuing a career in medicine. However, she plans on continuing her advocacy for awareness about diseases like sickle cell anemia and for refugees.

Dr. Gbadamosi “FolaDavid” Adefemi

Dr. Gbadamosi Adefemi is a speed painter and visual artist, as well as a medical doctor based in Nigeria. Dr. Adefemi fuses the studies of art and medicine to change social beauty standards. Dr. Adefemi has a fascination with the conditions he treats, particularly those visible on the skin of his patients. His eye for the unique leads him to create artistic representations of wrinkles, freckles, stretch marks and other skin features. Dr. Adefemi hopes to make everyone feel good about themselves and their bodies.

The Lagos native began drawing in medical school and eventually became the foremost speed-painter in Nigeria. Dr. Adefemi continues to practice medicine during the COVID-19 pandemic and hopes to continue influencing his patients and people everywhere to love themselves through this globally difficult time. In February 2020, he explained the melding of art and medicine to Face 2 Face Africa, “I mainly use my hand to take care of people, to heal them, treat them and make life a lot easier for them. And the same thing I do with my art.”

Dr. Venis Wilder “V. Tiarra”

Dr. Venis Wilder, medical director and performance artist, embodies the concept of bold fusion. Her medical career culminated into a passion for social justice in her South Florida community, and eventually, into her unique sound as V. Tiarra. She creates a blend of hip-hop, pop and R&B elevated with quick social commentary about politics, feminism and relationships. Her career as a medical director allows her to see the social problems in her community firsthand. Dr. Wilder discussed her choice to pursue music, stating, “I feel that sharing through music is a way to affect a larger number of people than I could see day-to-day in my office.”

V. Tiarra describes music as “healing,” and she continues to draw on music’s healing qualities during the pandemic. Most recently, she was a featured performer at the 2020 Blue Gala in Florida and released an album titled “Digital Love” in August 2020.

Dr. Sharanbir Kaur

Dr. Sharanbir Kaur or Sharan, to her friends and family, brings optimism to her patients and to her thousands of fans. The dentist from Delhi describes herself as introverted by nature. Dr. Kaur found that art was a way to connect and motivate people. She feels spreading positivity and a feeling of connectivity is especially important during the pandemic.

Thus, positivity is the force behind Dr. Kaur’s pieces, even those highlighting stressful subjects. “I went through several bad patches. It was during one such bad phase that I found art,” said Dr. Kaur in an interview with eShe. Dr. Kaur is currently splitting her time between clinical hours and illustration. One can view some of her illustrations from her Instagram account titled, the_blue_frenchhorn.

These doctors and artists are paving the way to a brighter future for the global community. Hopefully, more people will aspire to spread positive messages of their own and to pursue interdisciplinary careers.

Katrina Hall
Photo: Flickr

Number of Refugees
The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently reported that nearly 60 million people were forcibly displaced in 2014, which is the highest number of refugees ever recorded. Of those displaced, over 38 million were displaced within the borders of their home countries. The amount of refugees worldwide is now so high that every 1 in 122 people is displaced or seeking asylum. Of those refugees, only 126,800 of them were able to return home, and over half are children. Additionally, the majority of these refugees live in protracted displacement for at least ten years, and many have children during this time.

So where are the refugees coming from? Where are they going and why?

The majority of these refugees are fleeing the civil war in Syria and most of them are going to Turkey. But with such high rates of displacement, the problem is clearly widespread. People are fleeing from sub-Saharan Africa, Myanmar and Central America. The main driver in the displacement is civil war.

Experts are calling this the worst refugee crisis since World War II. With the advancements we have made globally since World War II, we should not be seeing such record-breaking highs in displacement rates. The situation in Syria is not likely to be resolved anytime in the near future,due to the widespread destruction and Islamic hold on the nation.

As we see a more prolonged period of civil war in various countries around the world, we will continue to see high displacement rates and see these displaced people staying displaced for longer periods. The mass migrations of populations around the world have huge implications on changing culture, foreign relations and the economy.

These displaced people start to make up subpopulations in their own countries or in neighboring countries and bring with them their culture. It is no easy feat to integrate into these other countries and refugees often face harsh discrimination that results in low living conditions, inadequate access to basic services and low employment rates. These displaced people face human rights violations, even after fleeing horrific circumstances, and the governments that accept them are faced with the strain they place on their own nation. We can expect to see more internal and external tension in these countries.

Because 53 percent of all refugees worldwide come from only three countries – Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia – solutions can be targeted. But first these solutions need to be developed. There needs to be an international focus on reducing the rates at which people are fleeing. The most pressing issue is that of civil war because it destroys a nation’s infrastructure on all levels. Civil war often involves widespread human rights violations both during and after the conflict, as the huge masses of people that fled the conflict face additional problems elsewhere.

The problems that arise from civil war, including but not limited to displaced persons, are spread across large geographical areas. By addressing the three major sources of the world’s refugees, we can hopefully prevent the problem from expanding any further. Displacement is largely a political issue and to alleviate it, there must be agreements and regulations set forth by the world’s political leaders.

– Emma Dowd

Sources: CNN, Foreign Policy 1, Foreign Policy 2
Photo: Al Jazeera America

food crisis
The food crisis in Africa is worsening;  nearly 800,000 refugees on the continent are seeing cuts in their food rations. A lack of global aid funding is causing even further malnutrition, potential starvation, stunted growth and anemia, particularly in child refugees.

These cuts in rations are up to 60 percent of what the refugees were previously being given. In order to restore full rations, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) needs $186 million by the end of the year, and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) needs another $39 million to provide nutritional support to the refugees.

Both of these organizations are working tirelessly to fix this food crisis. The leaders of the two met in order to make an urgent appeal to governments to provide aid. Ertharin Cousin, executive director of WFP, said, “We are appealing to donor governments to help all refugees – half of whom are children – have enough food to be healthy and to build their own futures.”

Throughout Africa, 2.4 million refugees in 22 different countries rely on regular food aid from WFP, and already one third of them have experienced reductions to their rations. UNHCR chief António Guterres said, “It is unacceptable in today’s world of plenty for refugees to face chronic hunger.”

The cuts have affected the refugees of Chad most harshly. The 300,000 refugees, mainly from Sudan’s Darfur region and the Central African Republic, have experienced the most severe cuts at about 60 percent.

Many refugees are being provided with 850 calories per day; when compared with the 2,100 calories recommended for adults to be healthy, they are receiving about one third of their expected intake.

The biggest concern about the reductions in rations is that refugees are already some of the most vulnerable groups of people. They have experienced trauma and most likely are undernourished to begin with.  Adding these cuts and the potential effects of them could cause irreversible damage to the population.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: The Guardian, Sudan Tribune, allAfrica
Photo: Child Fund