Saira Malik Rahman MD is a talented painter who blends her time as a pediatrician, an artist and a mother of 3. Her experience has shown her that these different facets of life have a symbiotic relationship, enhancing one another. Dr. Malik Rahman has been painting for as long as she can remember. Inspired by her physician grandfather and her artist mother, she knew that she wanted to become a pediatrician even before she began college. With dual concentrations in visual arts and biology as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, she felt that her art classes and her biology courses complemented each other. When she took a year abroad after college to study art history and creative writing, she was already on the path to achieving her dream of becoming a physician, as she also spent that year interviewing for medical school.
Fortunately, the medical school that Saira chose to attend, University of Illinois in Chicago, offered medical humanties electives such as a figure drawing class, which she describes as an enriching part of her medical education. As a medical student, she developed an elective there. She would round on patients and turn their medical history into artwork. For example, when a child with a heart condition drew a picture of a heart with tubes coming out of it, she took the boy’s drawing and made it into a painting incorporating his drawing, which is collaged into the painting. She was able to put on an art show at the medical school displaying the artwork.
Dr. Malik Rahman believes that cultivating the skills that are required for creating art has made her a better doctor, and that being a doctor has made her a better artist. Medicine provides the subject matter, while art is therapeutic. She loves being a pediatrician and is surprised whenever anyone believes that the two passions may be mutually exclusive. She finds many similarities between the two disciplines such as the need to observe keenly, filtering important details from a scene or a medical history, and the fact that medicine is itself an art. She enjoys seeing patients and tries to stay up to date with current medical knowledge on a very regular basis but the practice of painting for her is very different. As an artist, she says that the process does not come in a continued, regular fashion, but instead comes in spurts. She explains that the ideas and emotions that come to her need to ‘marinate' and build momentum and eventually pour out on to her canvas. She says that when it comes to painting, ‘you let go of yourself and your surroundings’ which has been a way for her to process the emotionally charged issues that she has had to deal with as a pediatrician. She says that, “Art has been a constant companion,’ as it has really been an outlet for her throughout her life. Dr. Malik Rahman has lectured in the Medical Humanities department at the University of Texas in Houston and she has done art shows for medical students and also displays her artwork on online galleries.
Because she truly lives her life by embracing medical humanities, she teaches her own sons not to develop their minds in a tight container and she wants them to know that you do not have to cast one interest aside for another. Saira is currently working on a tapestry and she is starting a website featuring her work because she believes that art is meant to be shared. Her website is saira.carbonmade.com