The Toll of It All

About the Artwork

“This work was made using the digital art software Affinity Designer and the artificial intelligence art software Midjourney. It depicts two faces overlaid, one looking forward and one to the right. A path extends toward the forehead and into a dark cavern. This piece is an exploration of the mental-health challenges of healthcare workers and trainees. The two roles we play–as healthcare workers and as fellow humans–often come into tension during medical training and practice. The result is that this profession, which I am honored to be entering, also requires us to be introspective and delve into our minds, for both our patients’ health and our own.”

Brian Smith is a second-year medical student at Stanford Medicine. He was previously an oncology scribe. While scribing, he found reflection and healing in writing. In medical school, he has explored the medical humanities more broadly, including most recently the visual arts. He has published more than twenty articles in academic journals such as JAMA Oncology, Anesthesiology, and Academic Medicine–as well as in Pulse, The Intima, and KQED.

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