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The Face behind the Illness
Yushen Qian, Christopher Chapman and Molly Chapman

Chronic illness affects numerous parts of the life of a patient. For example, family relationships, work life, mental health, social perceptions, everyday habits, as well as many other facets are dramatically changed when a formerly “normal” person is afflicted by a chronic illness. For physicians, while the biological and physiological symptoms are more readily perceived, the social effects that dictate how the patient views him or herself, are often less easily appreciated. In our Family Centered Experience Interpretive Project, we hope to “bring these subtleties to light.” Specifically, we intend to create a shadow sculpture to depict the face of illness.

The shadow sculpture is a collection of various materials representing the diverse array of effects that chronic illness has on a person’s life. In constructing the sculpture, there will be an emphasis on utilizing medical materials such as: medical pills and bottles, gloves, syringes, forms, tongue depressors, clippings from medical magazines, images, test tubes, surgical tubing, pipette tips, as well as other materials that symbolize healthcare and illness. When a light is directed at the sculpture in a specific direction, an image of a person will present as the formed shadow.

Our intent is to generate a visual metaphor bridging the social effects of chronic illness and the patient as a whole. Not only physicians, but the world as a whole, should look beyond the predominately biomedical view of the patient to see how the chronic illness affects the patient’s personhood. With our sculpture, we want to emphasize the patient’s side of the story, which is too often “left in the shadows” – that he or she is not just “Patient X presenting with a list of symptoms,” but rather a whole human being affected by every single aspect of his or her life.