As a young child growing up in Oxford, Ohio, Veena Patel, MD, demonstrated a talent for arts and crafts. At age 7, she painted a portrait of her father, now a retired mechanical engineer, which he still proudly admires.
Dr. Patel, an assistant rheumatology professor at Dell Medical School—the graduate medical school of the University of Texas at Austin—vividly remembers how her father and she enrolled in art classes at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, and then attended art shows featuring the works of students attending those classes.
“My dad has had a passion for art since he was young and has been my biggest inspiration,” she says, adding that her parents encouraged her to pursue art as a hobby, not as an occupation, to immunize her against the starving artist syndrome. “Some of my fondest childhood memories are of painting and visiting art museums with my dad.”
Dr. Patel has two passions in life—art and medicine, which she believes go hand in hand. She explains that artists and physicians start with a blank slate, whether they are figuring out what to draw or paint on a canvas or diagnosing patients. Both must pay attention to detail, conduct some research, creatively think about their next step and accept the unknown—solutions aren’t always black and white.
Over the years, Dr. Patel’s art pieces have included embroidered accessories, such as purses and hats, pottery, jewelry and homemade birthday cards for family and friends.
Dr. Patel graduated from the American University of Antigua College of Medicine, Antigua and Barbuda, in 2012. While serving as one of the university’s graduate medical interviewers between 2013 and 2017, she also completed her residency in internal medicine in 2016 at McGovern Medical School, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston. In 2016 and 2017, she also served as chief resident in quality and patient safety at Baylor College of Medicine and Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, Houston.
In 2017, Dr. Patel moved to Chicago to complete a two-year rheumatology fellowship at the University of Chicago, where she moonlighted as a hospitalist in the school’s hospitalist division. In September 2019, she was appointed to her current position and moved to Austin.
While completing her medical education, Dr. Patel couldn’t devote much time to drawing and painting. It wasn’t until she was a first-year fellow at the University of Chicago that art re-entered her life.