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His painting gives MD a new view on medicine

Dr. Sidhartha Pani, with one of his paintings that hangs in his medical office.
Dr. Sidhartha Pani, with one of his paintings that hangs in his medical office.

In the seven years since Dr. Sidhartha Pani took his first art course with a gift certificate for Father’s Day, the Chestnut Hill resident has worked to refine his painting skills while improving in an unexpected area: the relationships with his patients.

Pani, medical director of Emerson Primary Care Associates of Sudbury, said his art experience consisted of doodling before his wife, Dr. Nadhu Misra, encouraged the hobby to fill time after their son left home. Surprised by his enjoyment as well as the encouragement he received, Pani gradually began exhibiting locally and participating in competitions and juried shows.

When Pani brought some of his early work to his office, he hung the oil paintings inspired by his travels “somewhat hesitantly.” Shortly thereafter, he met a new patient who, her daughter warned, had refused to take previously prescribed medication for multiple medical issues.

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During their initial conversation, Pani followed the woman’s gaze to a portrait of a flamenco dancer that he painted after a trip to Spain. A portrait painter herself, she proceeded to give him tips to improve the dancer’s expression.

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After an animated discussion about art, the woman agreed to take her medications and return for lab work and checkups. Pani called their future visits a “delight,” and she shared her latest work with him just a week before her death earlier this year at age 92.

“The entire incident gave me a new perspective about doctor-patient relationships,” Pani said. “Painting gave me a way to connect with my patients at a personal level. Visits became more enjoyable when we talked about colors and images rather than just putting check marks on predetermined, impersonal questions.”

Pani says that painting benefits him personally as well as professionally, by helping him relax, reflect on difficult cases, and challenge himself.

His work has been exhibited at Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Medical Society, Boston Design Center, the offices of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston City Council president Michelle Wu, and in galleries nationwide and internationally.

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“Every physician should have an outlet,” he said. “Mine makes me a better person and a better doctor.”

For more information, visit sidharthapani.com.

Cindy Cantrell

Cindy Cantrell can be reached at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.