fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

Close this search box.

fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

Close this search box.

Three Ladies in Hats

About the Artwork

“Physicians know that a patient’s general appearance can provide clues to diagnosis and treatment. I’ve found that asking about a tattoo, a piece of jewelry or an unusual article of clothing can be a good conversation-starter and often contribute to a better understanding of the patient.
“A Google Scholar search did not identify any articles about patients’ attire, much less about those who wear hats when they visit the doctor. There are editorials on the importance of hardhats for safety and broad-brimmed hats for protection against the sun; essays on the many hats worn by multitasking healthcare professionals; and letters urging that new therapies replace ones that are old hat.
“Far fewer women wear hats to the doctor’s office than when I was a medical student forty years ago, so I always smile when I see a patient in a hat and often comment that it adds a nice touch. What a contrast to the scrubs some physicians wear when seeing patients. My hat is off to ladies in hats.”



A self-taught artist, Alan Blum is professor and endowed chair in Family Medicine at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa. His artworks have been regularly featured in Pulse since 2010 and have also appeared in JAMA, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Literature and Medicine, The Pharos, Hektoen International and The Color Atlas of Family Medicine. He has frequently been invited to speak at conferences and courses in the medical humanities, more recently via Zoom, as well as at medical school and residency graduations. His website features sketches, stories and presentations, plus excerpts from his three books: Ladies in WaitingGentle Men and Seeing Patients: The Sketchiest Details.


2 thoughts on “Three Ladies in Hats”

  1. I love these sketches, and admit to wearing hats indoors in winter, especially beanies. But I simultaneously struggle with the etiquette rules that say we should remove hats when inside (which should be acknowledged is a relatively recent change for women!).
    But these sketches and the background behind them also immediately reminded me of the “inspirational” screed about “Wear The Purple Hat”, which a received several years ago in an email, and amongst friends we use the phrase “wear the purple hat” to describe a situation where one should just go ahead, seize an opportunity, not be afraid or self-conscious, etc. I searched for a web-based version, and found it here, for anyone who would like to read it, it’s not very long:

  2. When I saw Alan Blum’s name pop up with sketches I already knew I was in for a treat. I love his oh so personal sketches and comments. How we dress doing to doctors has changed so much since my youth when people dressed in nicer clothes to go. No matter how I feel I like to wear a loose colorful dress and look my best but the majority of other patients wear shorts and tee shirts. My mother told me her grandmother had two black floor length dresses and always wore the faded one so ‘the doctor wouldn’t charge too much’. I wonder if she wore a hat.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Visuals

Scroll to Top