Photo exhibit shows YSM’s response to COVID-19

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and staff at Yale School of Medicine (YSM) and Yale New Haven Hospital quickly focused on redefining roles, developing new ways of treating patients, and learning more about them learn how the virus behaves, how it spreads and how to prevent it.

Portraits of Strength captures this time through a series of photographic portraits of healthcare providers, scientists and other key workers, taken between February and October 2021. Located in the lobby in front of the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, the exhibit opened on May 19.

“These images represent the beauty, resilience and collaboration of our fellowship,” said Nancy J. Brown, MD, Jean and David W. Wallace, Dean of Medicine, in their remarks at the opening reception. “When I think of COVID, I think of the way people came together, stretched and really cared in an inspiring way,” she said, noting that the patient mortality rate in the Yale New Haven system was among the lowest in the country.

The portrait project was conceived and executed by creative director Allaire Bartel and photographer Anthony DeCarlo. They weren’t able to shoot in clinical spaces for long periods of time like they normally would, instead bringing the subjects to them. The idea was to express gratitude, share their stories, and record their contributions to the many individuals whose efforts have contributed to Yale’s response to the pandemic.

“As you look at these images, I hope you see incredible courage,” said Darin Latimore, MD, associate dean of diversity and inclusion and co-director of the YSM Public Art Program (PAPS), which runs the exhibit aligns . PAPS Board Members Terry Dagradi and Jennifer Reynolds Kaye, PhD curated the show.

In her remarks, Lynn Tanoue, MD, MBA, professor of pulmonary medicine and vice chair of clinical affairs for the department of internal medicine, noted that every department in the medical school was involved in managing the surge.

“I find it amazing to see the breadth of different people and departments and skills that are represented here,” said Jaideep Talwalkar, MD, associate professor of internal medicine (general medicine) and pediatrics. “It’s a great example of Yale coming together to care about patients and prioritize their health,” said Jessica Tuan, MD, MS, medical (infectious disease) instructor, who was an infectious disease fellow at the time. Portraits of Talwalkar and Tuan appear in the exhibition.

Portraits of Strength transforms a space that once housed historical portraits of YSM faculty but did not reflect those currently studying and working at the school. “It was a place to travel through,” said Anna Reisman, MD, professor of internal medicine (general medicine) and co-director of PAPS. “Now it’s a place to stay.”

Guests and sitters alike noted the power of the exhibition and reflected on the uncertainty prevailing at the time, even as the world continues to struggle with COVID-19. Portrait subject Angela Nunez, research associate, said, “Look at this force of nature that we are together.”

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