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Art and Science, by Design

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, October 14, 2013
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This article appears in the October issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Great surgeons are good with their hands but also have an eye for detail. For cardiac electrophysiologist Roderick Tung, MD, director of the ventricular tachycardia program at UCLA's Cardiac Arrhythmia Center in Los Angeles, attention to detail extends beyond medicine. Years ago, Tung observed that he had 150 dress shirts but wished he could pull together elements from different designers to build "the perfect shirt." In 2009, he launched his own boutique men's shirt and accessories line, which he runs as a one-man side business. Simply called Tung, the line is now in its fourth fall season, gracing runways, boutiques, celebrity closets, and fashion magazines.

On fashion in the exam room: One desirable side effect of being fashionable in the medical profession is it inspires confidence in patients. Patients do notice when you're well-dressed. When I'm wearing a suit in the ICU, patients acknowledge it. When you wear something personal and you pay attention to how you present yourself, it may be subconscious, but you're going to pay more attention to their care. There's no patient in the world who would rather have a disheveled doctor than one that's put together.

On balancing two passions: People who are in the scientific field tend to be one-dimensional without as many outlets for artistic expression. The pursuit of both may compromise their professional reputation and perception. But I have an unwavering passion for medicine primarily, and having a fashion endeavor does not compromise my privileged duties as a physician.

On being a Renaissance man: Humans are complex. We don't have to be defined by our careers. If I could meet one person alive or dead, it would be Leonardo da Vinci. He is the original Renaissance man. At that time, so little was understood about the human condition. They were trying to understand it through art, philosophy, and science. da Vinci would dissect a human to understand the human form. All of his drawings are considered art, but they are also some of the earliest anatomical research to understand the body. I think art is expression and science is discovery, but they aren't mutually exclusive; they can assist one another.


This article appears in the October issue of HealthLeaders magazine.


Chelsea Rice is an associate editor for HealthLeaders Media.
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