Finding Art in Science and Science in Art

Written By: Erica Davis, PharmD, BCPS, BCPP, advanced practice pharmacist

Headshot of Erica DavisI’ve always described psychiatric pharmacy as more of an “art form” than a science because medication therapy in psychiatry is less black-and-white than other pharmacy specialties. This is definitely true in my practice as an advanced practice pharmacist with the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. Through the Mental Health Program, I provide clinical pharmacy services at Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville, Md., a state psychiatric hospital, where patients are often severely mentally ill. I am consulted daily to provide recommendations for patients who do not respond to medication therapy, often after several failed trials. A career in psychiatric pharmacy is a good balance between my logical left brain and artistic right brain, allowing creativity in medication therapy within the confines of evidence-based practice.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, I struggled with the demands of being a health care worker. To cope, I turned to my creative side.

While experimenting with numerous mediums including needlework, clay, yarn crafts, painting, and epoxy resin, I kept coming back to my pharmacy roots and creating clay capsules, crocheted medicine, and eventually, incorporating real over-the-counter medications that I purchased into epoxy resin. As I began to show my creations to my coworkers, I was met with similar excitement.

Medication comes in all different shapes, sizes, and colors and, as a pharmacist, it seemed inevitable to incorporate medicine into art. The UMB Holiday Craft fair in early December was my first chance to introduce Artfully Apothecary to like-minded individuals, and I was pleasantly surprised at the interest in my nerdy crafts including ornaments, coasters, paperweights, and wall art. I received many comments from customers about how they’d “never seen anything like this” and how “unique” it is. I was also pleased to share my work on UMB’s Instagram account.

I think science-based art appeals to so many because those of us in STEM professions see the beauty and creativity in what we do. The ability to share that with others allows a glimpse into a world that doesn’t always appear artistic at first.

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