Osler Society Top Stories Zucker School of Medicine

Artist Elizabeth Jameson teaches students and clinicians what it means to be human

Elizabeth Jameson shares her medical and personal journey with medical students as they enjoy her art made from her MRI scans
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The Osler Society of the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell hosted a program, The Reimagined Brain, featuring the work and words of Elizabeth Jameson, aformer public interest lawyer turned writer, speaker, and artisan who creates conversations about what it means to have an illness or disability as a part of the universal human experience. 

Ms. Jameson is living with multiple sclerosis (MS) and is a quadriplegic. No longer able to practice law, her artwork is both a professional and creative outlet that has become part of permanent collections around the world, including at the National Institutes of Health as well as numerous universities and medical schools.  She has been published by WIRED, British Medical Journal, and most recently the New York Times.  In 2016, she delivered a TedX talk, “Learning to Celebrate and Embrace Our ImperfectBodies.” 

The exhibit and reception at the Zucker School of Medicine opened with a performance from accomplished cellist, Anthony (“AJ”) LaBarca, 17, who played pieces from the repertoire of Jacqueline du Pré, a celebrated and brilliant English cellist whose career and life was cut short by MS.  Ms. Jameson then shared her medical and personal journey. From her sudden loss of the ability to speak to her first terrifying MRI experience and the “ugly” brain scans which she felt were tattooed on her forehead, Ms. Jameson discovered the power of art to transform the ugliness into something of beauty. She is passionate about sharing her story and encouraging the conversation about illness as part of the healing process.

“Everyone experiences illness, either their own or a loved one – we all have fascinating stories.  We all need to share ourstories and to draw on our own stories to find compassion for one another,” explained Jameson.  

Following Ms. Jameson’s talk, Asaff Harel, MD, a clinical neurologist who heads the MS clinic at the Cushing Neuroscience Institute at Northwell Health, gave a brief presentation about the epidemiology of MS, as well as current treatmentoptions.  Joel N.H. Stern, PhD, aneurologist and researcher in the field of MS, also provided an overview of themechanism of MS and discussed some exciting recent findings that may pave theway to a host of new treatment options. Drs. Harel and Stern, along with nearly 100 medical students, faculty members, and guests in attendance, were mesmerized by Ms. Jameson’s art and courage. 

“It was so inspiring and beautiful to see how [she] creates light in the shadow of darkness,” said first-year medical student, Metania Yehounatan.

The Osler Society of the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell is the home of the school’s Humanities in Medicine Program.  The program brings the arts and medicine together for the purposes of bringing new perspectives to the study of disease, highlighting the impact of disease on patients and their families, and providing opportunities for students, patients and health professionals to get to know one another outside of the clinical setting. 

For more information, please visit medicine.hofstra.edu/humanities or contact Lisa Martin, director, Humanities in Medicine at Lisa.Martin@hofstra.edu.

Article written by Lisa Martin, director, Humanities in Medicine

About the author

Adrienne Stoller

Adrienne Stoller is communications manager at the Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell. For more information about news items or media inquiries, please send a message to Adrienne.M.Stoller@hofstra.edu or call 516-463-7585.

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