We do not yet see clearly but hope is gold

Rachel Handley, Public health registrar, Public Health England

Published in JHH18.1 – Flourishing in Medical Education

I started making this piece in 2007. I am now in my final year of public health training, having taken a scenic route in my medical career and discovered that the more sickness I see, the more inequality, injustice, ego and broken systems, the more deeply I believe in the power of creativity. I have come to see it as vital not only for self-knowing, humbling and healing, but also as a tool to connect us to one another, and that in the shared fragility that creative enquiry allows, we begin to dare to release more love, beauty, joy and life into the world.

Original reflection 2007

I am lifted up, I can meet people there, in that place of hope, if I am not afraid to give of myself, and realise there is more to medicine than fighting physical death. I found hope myself in painting it, and the title, which I decided afterwards.

New reflection 10 years later

Facing death and the powerlessness that I felt as a young medical student is what motivated this painting, as I needed to still feel there was something good I could bring even outside the medical model.

Now I can reflect on how much I disagree with the power dynamics in the painting and the huge responsibility I felt I had to bear. I can see that I felt I had to rescue. I have since learnt that it is my vulnerability, our equality, our interdependence, that actually allows for flourishing. I am no saviour, and instead, when I share my fragility with those I care for, we both make space for healing of each other and the world around us.