We’ve all seen the TED Talk titled Does School Kill Creativity in which Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for redesigning school systems that cultivate creativity. He discusses the idea that traditional schools educate students out of creativity by placing educational blinders on, shielding them from all that is art, free-thought, and creative exploration.
I agree. The structured schedule and required educational milestones keep the mind straight and narrow. No room for deviation, no chance for flexibility, no time for discovery, no creativity. Zero imagination. Boring.
Unfortunately, for some time I felt veterinary medicine killed creativity as well. Tufts emulated the same robotic and analytic structure that atrophied the right side of my brain in grade school, high school, and college. The logical, numerical, in-control left brain was swelling and bursting with knowledge, but the right brain; creative, imaginative, insightful, and intuitive was lifeless. So sad!
But the physician Edward de Bono tells us, “Creativity involves breaking out of expected patterns in order to look at things in a different way.” And this happens naturally, I believe after the left-brain grows and grows and grows and eventually, becomes bored with itself. This perpetual boredom leads to a search for excitement, new activity, interesting and different things – things the right-brain knows very well. At this point, after years of monotonous training, the left-brain has the foundational knowledge for the right-brain to do its thing – to be creative. The right-brain now takes over.
I’ve seen this right-brain/left-brain interplay during my internship year quite often when the surgeons exclaim, “Ahh veterinary surgery, the perfect mix between art and science!” I’ve also seen this dynamic in the emergency room, while performing gastroscopy, starting a critical patient on multiple pressors, and providing post-op hemilaminectomy supportive care. These are all creative processes backed by science. The left-brain and the right-brain are both at work here.
Much of what we do as veterinarians involves physics, biology, chemistry, and math and we have to understand these things in order to diagnose and treat. But it is with creativity that we can both understand the science and apply it successfully. We need science in veterinary medicine, but we also really need creativity. Perhaps we should begin to view our patients as beautiful art projects.