Usher Institute

BLOG: The Art in the Master of Family Medicine Summer School 2023

Benard Kusienya, a Family Medicine Physician from Kenya, shares his transformative experience during the Family Medicine Summer School 2023, where he rekindled connections, emphasised the interplay between science and art, and highlighted the importance of creativity in Family Medicine practice.

By Benard Kusienya | Family Medicine Physician from Kenya

Family Medicine Summer School 2023 team at the Institute of Climate Change, Edinburgh
Family Medicine Summer School 2023 team at the Institute of Climate Change, Edinburgh

The Master of Family Medicine Summer School 2023 offered a distinct experience in many ways. This was our first face-to-face meeting since 2019 when COVID-19 had pushed everything online. With the luxury of physical interaction between Family Medicine (FM) doctors and students from different continents, the art of socialisation and learning brought back the “family home”. The objectivity, creativity and enterprise that accompanied the event was one of the rare moments that taught me the art of relationships, peer learning and discovery. The event was planned for students, alumni, friends of the programme and the programme directors. Much of this event drew my attention to a rare encounter that I would like to mention in this article.

The programme team, led by Professor David Weller, Professor Liz Grant and Dr Robin Ramsay, organised a schedule that had a mixture of both formal learning and creativity components. The objective was to come together and explore the theme Community, Identity and Sustainability. This theme was in tandem with the FM global community’s role in the current and future conversations regarding climate change and sustainability as driven by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There were keynote presentations from Professor Liz Grant and other invited experts. The revelation behind these presentations was formal. As a global community, FM practitioners had identity; they were champions in the establishment and maintenance of environmental and social sustainability through the FM principles framework.

Benard during one of the drawing sessions
Benard during one of the drawing sessions

The five-day event encompassed a variety of activities. Monday was a day to set norms including bonding. The family sought cohesiveness in preparation for the learning journey during the week ahead. It occurred to me that the room would be filled with discussions around science and research, however, I realised very early on that there was an art table available for drawing. Dr Alan and Penny Barnard had integrated this idea into the Summer School sessions. Oh, so there was drawing? For what purpose? As I was still processing this, I noticed that the room had already transformed with painted art. My colleagues were already drawing. Honestly, I wasn’t interested. I had come to the Summer School in Edinburgh for science and not for art!  On the second day of the summer school, I realised that my colleagues felt relaxed every time they went to draw. I then started to remember how my children used to enjoy drawing and how they would relax while drawing. I missed them at that table. To beat the nostalgia, I picked up crayons and began to draw. 

The image in my mind was one that my twin boys had drawn for me back home in Kenya. That’s the one I decided to draw. The experience completely changed my perception. Life is not just about science - there is art in it! This made me realise further that the art in FM practice is in the subjective aspects of the patient’s illness. As the backbone of this practice stands on a three legged stool of communication, context and continuity of care, this stool must be colorfully painted by a good FM practitioner if sustainability in primary care has to be achieved. In other terms, without the art in FM practice, important information may not be drawn from the patient. 

While I drew, I could see my children around the table. I was in Edinburgh but had their frame in my mind. Perhaps as FM practitioners, we can draw patients’ images in our minds. That way, we may value them more. Before the Summer School ended on Friday, I had a revelation that apart from medical practice, what drives the life of a FM practitioner is the creativity they embrace. That is the art!


Photographs by Benard Kusienya