Artistic Antidote for a Pandemic

artistic antidote for a pandemic


At the end of 2020, we launched a collaboration between two CFAM initiatives: Artistic Antidote and Sharing Our Stories. Stories are one of the most powerful ways for us to connect, empathize, and to heal. Over the next few weeks, we're sharing stories submitted by our colleagues about how our lives and work as healthcare workers have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have a story to share, or know someone else who does, please submit via this form. 
*Banner Photo by Avi Nahum, MD, Regions Hospital


January 15, 2021 

was it not already enough?

was it not already enough
the responsibility
the hours
the fatigue
the microscope you cannot escape being examined under
the isolation of missing your loved ones

but then
a new anxiety
an additional anxiety
I could actually die
I might kill my loved ones

how much anxiety can we bear

you do as you must
thats how you got here

what is a resident if not resilient, obedient, determined

you learn how
you adjust to your new normal
and all the new layers it comes with

you have forgotten the joy of sharing a smile with your patient

and then one day
a headache
a deep ache inside your bones
youve never really felt your spine

you sit in your car, you wait patiently, you do it yourself
one inch back, she tells you
three turns in each nostril

you sleep through several days
fever dreams

“You have a POSITIVE Covid-19 Test Result”

you survive it
you have survived everything else so far

you worry when you see something catch your eye in the periphery
youve read the litany of possible sequelae
its just the kitten

you feel lighter, too
for six months
you had slowly forgotten
and eased into carrying
the heaviness of
what if I really get this
will I become one of the 200,000

may they rest in peace

Deepen empathy, Encourage curiosity, Promote creative thinking, Embody the joy of practice

We are in unprecedented and chaotic times, facing personal and professional challenges many of us are still grappling to comprehend. We vacillate between disbelief, despair, and determination.

In this uncertain, disorienting time, the arts can serve as a compass. The arts help us find direction and remind us that there is still solid ground beneath our feet and a steady horizon ahead of us. And so, those of us at the newly-formed Center for the Art of Medicine at the University of Minnesota welcome you to join us for a daily Artistic Antidote for a Pandemic.

These daily doses of poetry, prose, music, and art can be integrated into our clinical and self-care practices. In doing so, we hope they will:

Special Daily Pause with Kate DiCamillo

joy of practice

December 31, 2020

As this milestone year comes to a close, we want to share a new initiative, built out of the Artistic Antidote for a Pandemic. Sensing an enhanced need for support and gratitude for our frontline healthcare workers, we've partnered with local artists to create unique "Daily Pause" offerings to share with all of you. 


For our first piece, we offer up a unique pause from author Kate DiCamillo, who is one of six people to win two Newbery Medals for her novels The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses. We are lucky to count her as a resident of our great state, and even luckier to have her share her words of support with us at this time when we could all use some uplifting and encouragement. 



Do you have an original piece of poetry, brief prose, music or visual art that could serve as an Artistic Antidote for a Pandemic?  We welcome submissions from anyone reading this blog. Please submit your piece to for consideration and be sure to include your full name, credentials, and current role.  

In addition to the daily Artistic Antidotes, we sometimes will feature longer reflections about people’s experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have an essay you would like to submit for consideration, please send it to Again, please include your name, credentials, and current role.

Our hope is to compile a portion of the poetry, prose, artwork, and essays selected as Artistic Antidotes into an anthology at some point in the future.

Jon Hallberg, MD- Department of Family Medicine and Community Health
Maren Olson, MD, MPH- Pediatrics
Ben Trappey, MD- Internal Medicine- Pediatrics


flowery field paintingSomething about being in crisis and isolated from our normal routines triggers our brains to call up dark and dusty corners of our psyche we don’t usually see. In these corners live things like anxiety, gloom, and uneasiness.

Each of us has our own ways of dealing with these things and, for many of us, producing or experiencing art can provide the antidotes of pleasure, escape, and increased understanding.

For example, through the protagonist of Albert Camus’ The Plague, published in 1947, we experience many of the same issues facing us today. Is caring for a contagious population a moral duty? Or is it simple human decency? Do we shelter our loved ones when we put ourselves at risk or do they share the risk with us? How can we live our lives with a sense of normalcy, with a tender indifference to the virus?lady in rain painting

When experiencing stress that begins to go beyond what words can express, we can find refuge in listening to opera. In the huge dramatic peaks and valleys of opera, emotions overflow in song and, for a moment, the burden of these emotions in our own lives are lifted away by the music and singers’ voices. 

Three people I know—Carol Lange, the late Julie Ross, and my younger daughter Johanna―have found expression and relief through painting. 

Whether an atmospheric, calming depiction of a rainy day (Carol), a delicate watercolor of a flowery field (Julie), or a punchy bouquet of cheerful flowers (Johanna), painting provides both release in the creation and pleasure from the viewing of the artwork.

cheerful flowers paintingArt offers us different ways to experience and view the world, and allows us to share the viewpoints and perspectives of its creators. 

Please consider contributing to Artistic Antidotes―an image of your art, a poem, a song, a book that speaks to you―the ways art impacts your life as we build a “library” of shared resources for exploration, experience, creativity, and respite.