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.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.