According to Albert Einstein, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” This connection might explain why some of history’s most notable scientists also produced notable art. Da Vinci, Pasteur, and Audubon, for example, were all just as comfortable in a painting studio as they were a laboratory.
UNLV junior Rose Jiang has spent her academic career immersed in the worlds of painting and biology, so her interest was piqued when she heard about the open call for art proposals for the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV Class of 2023 class gift.
“I hadn’t been doing much art for a while,” Jiang says, “but when I saw the opportunity to do this piece of art for the medical school, I wanted to try because I have a background in both science and art.”
Jiang, who has called Vegas home since she was five years old, attended Las Vegas Academy of the Arts – where her concentration was 2-D art – before enrolling at UNLV, where she is a first-generation college student, member of the Honors College, and biological sciences major.
“I tried to keep art as a hobby when I started at UNLV, but a lot of upper-division science classes get really time-consuming, so I saw this competition as a slight escape from stressful classes,” says Jiang.
Jiang’s digital watercolor – titled Primum Non Nocere, Latin for “first, do no harm,” a tenet of the Hippocratic Oath – was selected as the class of 2023 gift, and you can now see the piece at the entrance of the Learning Commons on the third floor of the Medical Education Building (MEB). On the same floor, you can also see the class of 2022 gift, a painting by UNLV art major Ellie Rush titled, Better Together.
Nichole Staker, senior project manager with UNLV Planning and Construction, “oversaw the project from birth to conception.” What Staker “loves” about Jiang’s digital watercolor “is its sense of gentleness. It is not loud or boisterous, rather, it is there to quietly remind the students why they are here. As Rose so beautifully expresses in her artist statement: ‘The Art of Medicine: Primum Non Nocere. First, do no harm. One of the most important aspects of becoming a doctor is to devote themselves to helping others.’”
In Jiang’s digital watercolor, two pairs of hands are suturing an unseen wound while the Kirk Kerkorian Medical Education Building and recognizable Las Vegas tourist destinations sit in the foreground. Jiang explains, “Suturing is used to close up a wound, but in this specific instance suturing closes the gap between two different parts of Las Vegas.”
Jiang learned that a jury had selected her artwork to be displayed at MEB in July of this year, and Primum Non Nocere was installed in September, just in time for Jiang to see the piece during the school of medicine’s Sixth Annual Allopathic Medical School Application Workshop.
As a biology student with plans to become a physician, Jiang attended the workshop hoping to learn more about the medical school application process; seeing her art displayed in person was an exciting bonus to what Jiang remembers as an already exciting day.
Jiang described feeling “disconnected” from her dream of becoming a doctor “until I went to the workshop.” She says, “I enjoyed having actual students come to do the panels with us because we could be a little less formal with them,” and she especially appreciated that student panelists emphasized that they were always happy to take questions over email after the event concluded.
Jiang left the workshop sensing that Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV students “look out for each other, and they all wanted everyone to succeed.”
This community spirit is masterfully captured in Primum Non Nocere, where one pair of hands guides the other, one teaching another a new skill. Of the symbolism behind the painted hands, Jiang says, “Teachers, people who have had experience are at the medical school, and they're passing on their knowledge to the student.”
While artist-scientist Jiang has years before she will make any decisions on her own medical school journey, she has already left a permanent mark on the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine at UNLV.