What can palliative medicine learn from the Museo Picasso?

Pablo Ruiz Picasso painted the award winning Science and Charity at the age of 14. In it he depicts the very familiar—the scientists and the altruists at the bedside of a dying patient. They are almost caricatures of what we might see every day. The scientist has his back to the the dying patient, measuring a number, -the pulse- and the nun holding a child standing over the dying patient with sympathetic eyes.

science-and-charity-1897

For some, palliative medicine is the role of the “good sister”-comfortable at the bedside, giving good eye contact, recognizing the role of family.   I reject that as the adolescent black and white thinking of the masterful artist that created it. Palliative medicine is replete with scientific humanists.

My visit to the Museo Picasso coincided with the American Society of Clinical Oncologists 2014 (ASCO) meeting, with a thundering presence on Twitter. A new role of physicians will be to recognize the heartbreak of financial ruin with all the targeted therapies, the beneficence of stopping statins in the last year of life, and the increasing evidence for obesity as a risk factor for cancer. I could not stop reading the material linked to the tweets.

ASCO tweets are not usual fodder for a vacation. That vacation had a subtext—career definition after a 7-year stint as a director of a palliative care program at an academic medical center. Where do I go from here so that I can care for patients with scientific humanism without spending my own self? How does my clock get un-lopsided?

Slide1
See Mindtools.com to do your own.

Salvador Dali had his own version of my clock:

IMG_1067

The classic talent in young Pablo stunned me. No wonder he rejected his teachers by the time he landed in Madrid at the Royal Academy in Madrid.   Good to reflect on the many career shifts he had after his early life as a classical painter.

Stay tuned for my future clocks. Not sure how I will have a less lopsided clock in my future, but here are some of the possible ways….

IMG_3586IMG_3583IMG_1058IMG_1056IMG_1061