VTCSOM students paint away pandemic stress

Published: Mar. 21, 2021 at 9:37 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Furry friends bring us so much joy, and often, comic relief.

Now, pets are offering a different type of relief, posing as the subjects of some art therapy for students at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

“This is Bodo; I got him right at the start of the pandemic,” said first-year medical school student Casey Engel, a UVA graduate, who named her new pup after famed Charlottesville bagel shop Bodo’s Bagels.

She snapped a photo of him on a hike to the Roanoke Star not long after moving to the Star City.

Now, she’s turned that photo of Bodo into a painted masterpiece.

“He’s helped me so, so much through the stresses of medical school, so I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to kind of take some time to reflect and paint something that’s so important to me,” said Engel.

This pandemic stress relief was all made possible through a partnership between VTC’s School of Medicine and Roanoke’s Taubman Museum.

Students submitted pictures of their pets and professional artists sketched them and provided some helpful tips and guidance. Then, students began their artistic journeys.

Fourth year medical student Lauren Cashman painted her 15-year-old cat, Loki, as she wrapped up the final projects of her medical degree.

“Having this as a stress relief, like I’m also writing my research manuscript and I’m painting this portrait of my cat and they felt equally as important. This one [the painting] was way more fun, though,” laughed Cashman.

Students’ re-creations of dogs, cats, fish, rabbits, and even cows now adorn the halls of Virginia Tech Carilion.

It’s a bit of a change in the art gallery that usually displays professional works, but it’s a type of project we will likely see again, according to associate dean for community and culture, Dave Trinkle.

“There’s just volumes of data that shows that art and creativity, along with exercise and other outlets away from your day-to-day work or your day-to-day studying is a very healthy aspect and it just sort of creates a better wellness,” said Trinkle.

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