UK HealthCare

Surgical Residents Create and Thrive With ArtsCAFE

Photo of surgical residents viewing a painting
ArtsCAFE is a program that supports surgical residents through art and expression. Here, they view a painting by Lennon Michalski, an instructor for both ArtsCAFE and the UK College of Fine Arts.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug, 6, 2021) — ArtsCAFE (Arts Connect Around Food and Enrichment) provides a supportive social network for surgical residents to engage with visual arts while connecting with one another. The study, originally piloted in 2019, is a collaborative effort between the UK General Surgery Residency, UK Arts in HealthCareUniversity of Kentucky College of Fine Arts and UK Research.  

"Throughout the pandemic, we leveraged the creative spirit to continue to provide access to culture to resident physicians working harder than ever,” said Sara Brown, Graduate Medical Education Surgery program coordinator. “The arts have provided solace to us all over the past year and half; it was important to find a way to show our residents how appreciative we are of their work while still following COVID protocols to keep them and the community safe.”  

The core mission of ArtsCAFE is providing arts to medical trainees. In addition to visual art-making workshops for the surgery residents, the researchers are expanding to invite other graduate medical trainees to access cultural activities throughout UK and the local community.

Surgical residents participate in three-hour visual arts workshops, and may include their family and friends at no cost. The workshops are equal parts "family dinner" and high-level art course. Each workshop provides a reception for social gathering before transitioning to art making with a local prominent artist educator.  

“I am excited to work on the ArtsCAFE project in supporting doctors through the opportunity to be creative,” said participating art instructor Lennon Michalski. “They inhabit a field that has little space for error and spontaneous discovery. This collaboration will be a wonderful chance for doctors to flex their imaginations, express themselves, and simply to play.” 

Arts activities differ monthly, from digital illustration to watercolor, graphic narratives, ceramics and more. Researchers then solicit anonymous feedback from the participating residents to determine how the workshops impacted their personal and professional lives. One study participant commented that "creating art helps us connect with our right-side brain as we underutilize and underestimate how much we use it in surgery." 

Events for the upcoming year include ArtsCAFE:MedHums, providing thought-provoking discussion over topics in medical humanities, and ArtsCAFE:Meetups, which will incubate like-minded connections throughout the UK Graduate Medical Education community. Full events calendar is available here.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.