Emma Barnard is a visual artist whose practice bridges both art and medicine. Emma has worked extensively with ENT surgeons and their patients to explore the patient experience and the doctor/patient dynamic. Here, she tells us more about her work...

Who knew, back in 2011, that eight years later I would remain working as an artist within medicine and medical education? Certainly not me. Like most of the population, I was not a fan of the sterile hospital space and it would not have been my first choice for the background to a residency.

However, what a journey it has been! Full of many surreal moments such as presenting my work at conferences held at the Royal Society of Medicine and Cambridge University alongside medical professionals. A grin never fails to appear when I read the line up of specialists in their field and my gaze falls on my name, no prefix of 'doctor' just plain Emma Barnard, artist. Feeling like an imposter – how did I manage to sneak into that line up I wonder?

Learning together: Engaging and involving patients and the public in medical education,The Royal Society of Medicine

Learning together: Engaging and involving patients and the public in medical education, The Royal Society of Medicine

It was quite difficult for the local hospital to comprehend an artist in residence. Myself and my collaborator, the consultant ENT (head and neck) surgeon Mike Papesch, attended several meetings over a total of six months before I received clearance for our collaborative work to proceed.

The longer that I work in this field, the more grateful I am to my former colleague whose presence opened doors that otherwise would have remained tightly closed to an artist. So grateful to the many patients that I have worked with who have given me their time and allowed me to take their portrait to be used as a backdrop to the words they write to describe their experience as a patient in an outpatient department. So thankful also to the patients who consented for me to follow them through their pathway to various procedures, including in theatre. And to the staff who welcomed me, an artist, into their territory, despite many not understanding what an artist was doing in their environment. Theatre, so rightly named - containing complex procedures and played out with the surgeon taking the starring role, was a fascinating space to work in and what a privileged insight it offered me into that secret world.

Patients As People exhibition in situ at George V Wing, St Barts, NHS Barts Health, London

Patients As People exhibition in situ at George V Wing, St Barts, NHS Barts Health, London.

Grateful to be invited by King’s College London GKT School of Medical Education and to have the opportunity to utilise this work as a vehicle for offering new perspectives amongst medical students, firstly in a pilot project titled ‘Developing empathy and resilience in medical students through the creation of visual art’. Collaborating with critical care consultant Dr Stephanie Strachan and (then fourth-year medical student) Dr Katherine Stambolloian, we set out to enable medical students to recognise how they themselves feel in, or react to, situations and to consider how their patients may feel - so that they see patients both holistically and as people - to allow for reflection and development of emotional skills to help deal with the stresses of medical practice.

Image created by a medical student who took part in the project ‘Developing empathy and resilience in medical students through the creation of visual art’ Made in response to a clinical encounter.

Image created by a medical student who took part in the project ‘Developing empathy and resilience in medical students through the creation of visual art’. Made in response to a clinical encounter.

Last year, alongside other artists, I was invited back to GKT to co-lead workshops in a clinical humanities initiative that involved four hundred second-year students titled ‘Thinking Outside the Box’. It was led by Dr Kay Leadham Green.

How powerful art is that it can enable people to be viewed in a different light, as having a narrative, and not existing simply as a diagnosis. My colleagues and I witnessed these students become advocates for the most vulnerable among us in our communities, such as the homeless and those that are struggling with addiction, as seen in the showcase of their work at Somerset House.

An example of some of my students work from the ‘Thinking Outside the Box’ clinical humanities project at King’s Undergraduate Medical Education depicting work within their communities on GP placement

An example of some of my students work from the 'Thinking Outside the Box' clinical humanities project at King’s Undergraduate Medical Education depicting work within their communities on GP placement

Most recently, I was excited to work within Dentistry at King’s with Abigail Tucker (Professor of Development and Evolution) whose lab focuses on Craniofacial and Regenerative Biology. Titled 'A Dry and Silent World: hidden disabilities', the intention was to explore the potential for art to inquire into the experience of dry mouth and hearing loss in a bid to encourage clinicians to be more aware of how these conditions affect a person's quality of life. It was fascinating to have an insight into the organs that we investigated, the cochlear and salivary gland, and to see them 3D printed in the Tissue Engineering and Biophotonics lab. These were then used as objects to instigate discussion with patients who have been affected by these organs not working as they should due to serious disease or the treatment of it.

‘Dry image created in response to a conversation with an ex-patient of Guys hospital discussing their xerostomia (dry mouth) condition
‘Dry', 3D print of a salivary gland, salt. Image created in response to a conversation with an ex-patient of Guy's hospital discussing their xerostomia (dry mouth) condition. For more information: A Dry and Silent World: hidden disabilities.

It’s a great example of the creativity inherent to both good science and art and the humanities of clinical practice coming together with patient voice central to inform and improve care.

Dr Flora Smyth Zahra, Clinical Senior Lecturer in Interdisciplinarity & Innovation Dental Education, King’s College London

Detail of the A Dry and Silent World: hidden disabilities exhibition installed in the Museum of Life Sciences, King’s College London

Detail of the 'A Dry and Silent World: hidden disabilities' exhibition installed in the Museum of Life Sciences, King’s College London. The exhibition is a collaboration between King's College London's Centre for Craniofacial & Regenerative Biology and Emma Barnard, brokered and supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s.

Thank you to all of those who have supported me on this journey, I am deeply grateful.

I recently presented some of this work at the Storytelling for Health Conference in Swansea and I’m very excited by prospective future work on two or more collaborative projects working with some incredible people. Watch this space!

Do you know a hospital or other care site that needs help introducing art into their patient spaces? Click here to nominate them...

Celebrating 60 years of Paintings in Hospitals in 2019

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Emma Barnard MA (RCA) is a visual artist specialising in lens-based media and inter-disciplinary practice and research within Fine Art and Medicine. She has worked extensively with ENT consultant surgeons and their patients to explore the patient experience and the doctor/patient dynamic. The resultant artwork is currently being exhibited widely in galleries, universities and hospitals in the UK and internationally. She presents her work at conferences within the medical and medical humanities fields. The experience gained from working within medicine is now influencing the field of medical education. At King’s Medical School and Surrey University, Emma has worked alongside medical educators on innovative projects.

The 'Patients As People' exhibition is available to hire. For more information, please contact Emma directly via the following channels. Find out more about Emma and her work at emmabarnard.com. Emma is on Twitter (@PatientAsPaper) and Instagram (@emmabarnardartist).