I returned to drawing in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic after a hiatus of many years spent working as an emergency physician in downtown Toronto. As COVID swept through our emergency departments, we put everything we had to the test: our knowledge, our innovation, our resolve. We pulled on masks, goggles and face shields and showed up to do what we had been trained to do. 

In my off hours, I began drawing portraits of my colleagues in full personal protective equipment (PPE). Soon after, other images spilled onto the paper, images haunting us on the front lines: opacified x-rays, overrun health systems spilling into field hospitals, moments of exhaustion, rage and despair. Along with my colleagues, I wrestled with being warrior and human, resolute and broken, okay and not okay. Drawing became an outlet for that tension.

This suite of drawings is selected from a larger visual essay of the front lines during COVID. It explores being "both/and”— what we are in our wholeness, a vulnerable and expressive wholeness which is not always open to us in professional circles. 

The portraits are of emergency physicians at University Health Network in Toronto, and the additional images represent the journey my colleagues and I have been on together. The drawings are made with conté and paper and are purposefully limited to black and white as a gesture towards the graphic novel tradition. 

—Megan Landes


Artist Biography

Megan Landes, MD, MSc, CCFP(EM) is an Emergency Medicine physician at University Health Network (UHN), an Associate Professor and the Head of the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto (U of T).  She has worked for over a decade in global health, including in the midst of the HIV pandemic in Lesotho and Malawi and in developing emergency care in Ethiopia. Her most recent artistic work draws from her clinical familiarity with the human body and explores often buried narratives from the front line of health care. Her drawings have been accepted in the 2022 Call for Cover Art for Academic Medicine.  

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