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Medical students mesh arts and medicine

“Exclude nothing.” That is the artistic mantra from Gertrude Stein that Robert Fisch proclaimed to the group gathered March 24, 2009, to honor recipients of the Fisch Art of Medicine Student Awards. Fisch, an emeritus professor of pediatrics, established the awards with his wife, Karen Bachman.

Six medical students received funding and encouragement for artistic pursuits, as announced at this second annual colloquium. Their projects included writing, visual arts, comedy, and music.

Third-year student Preeti Kaur Rajpal participated in the Voices of Our Nations writing workshop in the Bay Area. It was founded by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz, who writes about immigrant and second-generation experiences. She also collaborated with The Loft in Minneapolis to produce a poetry CD entitled Nations of Immigrants? Rajpal, who is interested in global development issues, will study how public health messages may be delivered through street theater in other countries.

Andrea Noel used her Fisch award to study clowning and improvisational comedy. “My two biggest passions are medicine and performance. [Comedy is fun to perform and] laughter is healing.” Among the other recipients, Kathryn Brown is studying pottery, Katie Pastorius, visual arts, and Amanda Schlesinger, who could not attend, plans to do work at the Duke Center for Documentary Studies.

Paul Schaefer, who considered both music and medicine as a career, first chose music. Then, while teaching music at UW River Falls, he found “I hadn’t gotten rid of the medical bug.” And he still loves music; with his Fisch award, he has been studying voice with John De Haan, chair of the U’s voice department. Accompanied on the piano by his wife, Elizabeth, the tenor sang “Vainement, ma bien-aimee,” by Edouard Lalo. Schaefer is a fourth-year medical student who has matched at the University of Minnesota’s residency program in family medicine at St. Joseph’s Hospital, St. Paul.

His role model is Jon Hallberg, the creative director of the Medical School’s Center for Arts and Medicine that helps sponsor the Fisch awards. Hallberg, who serves as physician for the Guthrie Theater (among others), closed the evening with: “I think all of you are thinking: ‘These are the physicians we’d seek out.’”