Posted by: Duke Raleigh Hospital | March 2, 2017

Healing Through Art

In break rooms and offices across Duke Health, you’ll find Japanese comic book-inspired portraits of staff hanging on bulletin boards with the same signature. Alberto Lung, an art instructor at the Cary Arts Center and the Durham Arts Council, has been sketching Duke staff for years, as they take care of his mother. Lung estimates he has drawn well over a hundred cartoon portraits of nurses, doctors, social workers, therapists, and other support staff between the Duke hospitals.

Lung teaches manga cartoon-sketching workshops for children to promote their visual literacy and creativity. He always brings drawing paper and his sketching kit with him when he accompanies his mom to appointments, or when he visits her in the hospital during longer stays.

“Sketching is a favorite hobby, and it helps pass the time,” he says. “I always remind my students to also draw from observing live subjects around them, and to try to draw as many live cartoon portraits whenever the opportunity presents itself.” Lung began drawing portraits of staff as a small thank you for the care they gave his mom during appointments, Emergency Department visits, and extended stays.

“It typically takes 3-5 minutes to draw a cartoon version of a subject with a marker,” Lung says. “The sketching process helps me remain calm, awake, and focused during medical emergencies. Since I often write the first name of each subject in bubble letters, it also helps me remember the staff that has previously worked with mom on repeat visits.”

During a quiet moment, he hands the souvenir cartoon portrait to the staff member. Lung says they seem to be well-received, and many recipients often tell him they plan to frame the drawing or display it in their work space.

“It is quite rewarding to be able to brighten somebody’s day or night just with a quick sketch,” he says. “I remember one nurse who told me we were the first patient to make her cry since she was so touched when she got her first cartoon portrait one particularly stressful night in the ED. I think Duke nursing staff are the best in the nation, and I’m quite happy to see the same friendly faces on repeat visits.”

“The quality of the care provided by the Duke Health system is second to none, and we’re grateful for the effectiveness and timely diagnosis they’ve provided us,” Lung says. “I have no doubt that the nurses and doctors that we have met have the best interest of each individual patient at heart.”

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