Aspiring artists partner with Children’s Mercy to simplify complex medical information

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -  Art sometimes imitates life and now art may help to save a life. An unlikely partnership is making it possible between Kansas City artists and doctors.

Pencils, paint, portraits: these are the things you expect to see at an art school. There's art created at the Kansas City Art Institute that will never hang in a museum or in a frame. Instead, it will be in the hands of children.

It’s more meaningful to Shafer Brown than some his most beautiful work.

“Knowing that your work can positively impact people, not in some sort of abstract way, but in a very direct, real way,” said Brown.

Brown creates medical research illustrations for Children's Mercy. They look like quick sketches, but they were some of the most difficult pieces he’s ever done.

“The execution was very fast but the actual thinking part was quite long, which tends not to be the case,” said Brown.

Before he graduated, he was among Kansas City Art Institute students who were in a class called "Micro.” In the class, students take on real clients. This time the client was Children’s Mercy. Make a picture that explains complex medical information to people who can't speak English or for people who may find certain procedures confusing.

Dr. Susan Abdel Rahman worked on the illustrated translations with art institute students after researchers found it was sometimes difficult to communicate with patients.

“Started doing research in populations where literacy was compromised, there was limited English proficiency, or they had no written language sometimes in the studies we`ve done,” said Dr. Abdel Rahman.

Creating the illustrations can take several months. Students start by getting a complex research study- then they create sketches for concepts they think would be difficult to explain with just words.

Then feedback pours in from people of all walks of life, and from that feedback, the artists make adjustments.

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