The Healing Arts

Spring/Summer 2018

Musings on the Art-Medicine Journey

I happened to be visiting family in Dubai in June 2009 when Michael Jackson died. The news felt surreal. I had grown up with the Jackson Five and Michael as my soundtrack. The magic of the Roller Dome in Indiana transcended land and sea that morning and filled my heart with a soul-ache I struggle to describe.

Our rare but beloved trips to the glitzy Arabian city had always been more about playing Uno with grandparents than exploring beaches or snow skiing in a shopping mall. But that night my husband and I had decided to treat our kids to a special “touristy” Dubai experience. We were going to the massive new water park for “Family Night.”

Do you know about Michael Jackson and Dubai water parks? In his later years, he liked to rent out a whole one to himself, don a burkini, and ride water slides all day. His spirit somehow reverberated in that place. I could feel it when we arrived. All around us, a truly global community—all ages, shapes, sizes, languages, colors, creeds—came together for swimming, sliding, and late-night picnics. And when “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin” came on over the sound system, a chorus rose up among the people: Mama say mama sah mama coosa. Our energy was shared, and the rhythm rolled over the crowd in a visible wave, taking us and moving us and bringing something to us all together and at once. Something between solace and joy. A beautiful unity. Humanity.

Did we experience a phenomenon that science can explain? What does it mean when a community of strangers rides a wavelength together? How does a shared perception of beauty connect and uplift us to a place where differences are transcended? And, if we can better understand what happens in our bodies when we experience art, will this help us heal?

In this issue we explore the intersection of medicine and the arts. Through the healing power of art in pediatric oncology, the flourishing new medical student arts group, and a visit with three School of Medicine artist-doc alumni, Georgetown’s ongoing work in this arena is made visible through action. But our medicine-art journey begins in the mind, and so we open with a peek into the vast research underway across the university on neuroscience and the arts. 

Jane Varner Malhotra, Editor