Sometimes, when a young person is talented in both science and art, they’ll tell you they feel pulled in two opposing directions, and it feels as if they have to make an agonizing choice about their future career.
But for Dallas native Leana Pande, now in her second year of medical school at Touro College of Medicine in Middletown, NY, the choice was easy.
“If you’re a full time artist you have to be willing to paint what other people want you to paint,” she said. “Being in medicine, I can make (art) more of an outlet and work on what inspires me.”
Some of her recent artistic inspiration has come from the inner workings of the human body. With permission from the anatomy department at her medical school, she has photographed cadaver organs and created paintings that showcase the heart, brain and lungs.
“I did the heart on my own,” she said, explaining that for the paintings of the brain and lungs, she drew the outlines and invited fellow students to color inside the lines.
“A lot of students had never held a paintbrush before,” she said, adding she was excited to have her friends experience how relaxing painting can be. “It’s really cool to watch someone develop a new hobby.”
The fill-in-the-outlines technique is something her mother, local artist Mona Pande, has employed during lessons in classical Indian art that she has taught in Wilkes-Barre.
Leana Pande, a graduate of Wyoming Seminary and Wilkes University, has helped her mother teach those art classes.
And it didn’t take Touro College of Medicine long to recognize her artistic talent. The school commissioned her to create several pieces to be displayed on campus.
A few physicians have purchased her art as well, including Lenox Hill Hospital’s Chair of Neurosurgery Dr. David Langer.
In another recent honor the American Medical Women’s Association selected Pande for its artist-in-residence program.
“They select an artist every year who’s also in medicine in some way,” the honoree said. “That person works alongside a physician artist and gets to speak a little at a national conference.”
Pande was paired with neurosurgeon Dr. Kathryn Ko, with whom she meets each month to discuss her plans and what she has accomplished.
“She has the career path I want,” Pande said of her mentor. “She gets to do all the really cool medical science and she has this creative outlet on the side. She is definitely a professional grade artist.”
Some of Pande’s past art projects have included images of bacteria and viruses as well as plant cells, based on how they appear under an electron microscope.
“When I looked at plants I’d see structures that repeated constantly,” Pande was quoted in a news release from Touro. “I’d see fluorescent greens and blues that, as an artist, appealed to me so I’d paint those. I’d paint slices of grass or algae or microorganisms and make beautifully-colored 3D models as if I’d scooped up pond water and looked under the microscope to see what was there. It was aesthetically pleasing to me.”
As for her future art projects, Pande expects they, too, will be science related.
“Right now I’m brainstorming what I’ll do for August,” she said last week in a telephone interview. “I’ve bought some paint. I want to do something bold.”
And her future medical specialty? “I’m keeping an open mind,” she said. “I’m looking into neurology; I like the way neurology makes you use critical thinking in your diagnosis. You have to be observant.”
“I do like the brain a lot,” she said.
Faculty member Dr. Stephen Moorman, who has taught Pande anatomy and neuroanatomy, said her artistic ability will be in asset in her chosen profession.
“She has a different perspective on the anatomy,” Moorman was quoted in the news release. “When she looks at dissections she’s doing in our lab, she sees an illustration. She sees the beauty of the structures. Most students simply memorize what they’re seeing (and) are not visualizing.”
“We’re lucky to have her,” Moorman said. “The powers of observation you need to be a successful artist can really help you as a physician. The diagnostic skills depend on your powers of observation. She has the powers of observation. It’s just a matter of refining them and building them into diagnostic skills, and that’s what we hope to do.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT