During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and staff from Yale School of Medicine (YSM) and Yale New Haven Hospital quickly pivoted to redefine roles, devise new ways to treat patients, and learn about 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 health care providers, scientists, and other essential workers taken between February and October 2021. Located in the lobby outside the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library, the exhibit opened on May 19.
“These images represent the beauty, resilience, and collaboration of our community,” said Nancy J. Brown, MD, Jean and David W. Wallace Dean of Medicine, in her remarks at the opening reception. “When I think about COVID, I think about the way people came together, stretched themselves, and really cared in a way that is inspiring,” she said, noting that the mortality rate of patients 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. Unable to photograph in clinical spaces for a long period of time as they normally would, instead they brought the subjects to them. The idea was to express gratitude to the many individuals whose efforts contributed to Yale’s response to the pandemic, share their stories, and record their contributions.
“When you look at these pictures, I hope you see incredible courage,” said Darin Latimore, MD, deputy dean of diversity and inclusion and co-director of the YSM Program for Art in Public Spaces (PAPS), which is hosting the exhibit. PAPS Executive Committee members Terry Dagradi and Jennifer Reynolds Kaye, PhD, curated the show.
In her remarks, Lynn Tanoue, MD, MBA, professor of medicine (pulmonary) and vice chair for clinical affairs for the Department of Internal Medicine, noted that every department at the School of Medicine participated in handling the surge.
“I think it’s amazing to see the breadth of different people and departments and skill sets that are represented here,” said Jaideep Talwalkar, MD, associate professor of internal medicine (general medicine) and of pediatrics. “It’s a great representation of Yale coming together to help take care of patients and prioritize their health,” said Jessica Tuan, MD, MS, instructor of medicine (infectious diseases), who was an infectious diseases fellow at the time. Portraits of Talwalkar and Tuan appear in the exhibit.
Portraits of Strength transforms a space that once housed historic portraits of YSM faculty but did not reflect those who currently study and work at the school. “It was a place to pass through,” said Anna Reisman, MD, professor of internal medicine (general medicine) and co-director of PAPS. “Now it’s a place to linger.”
Guests and portrait subjects alike remarked on the power of the exhibit, reflecting on the uncertainty that was prevalent at the time, even as the world continues to grapple with COVID-19. Portrait subject Angela Nunez, research associate, said “Look at this force of nature that we are together.”