July 1, 2020

Member Spotlight: Jonathan Warren


Jonathan Warren is a fourth-year medical student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.  He is creator and publisher of a phenomenal website, Art of Emergency Medicine. For Jonathan, the process of getting out into nature, capturing photos, as well as subsequent reflective time editing, helps combat the depersonalization and emotional exhaustion experienced in the hospital.  He kept hearing similar stories from mentors and other physicians, so he developed Art of Emergency Medicine as a platform to promote this sense of well-being through art among the Emergency Medicine community at large.  He hoped by creating a centralized area for physicians to share their artwork and its contribution to their wellness, it could inspire others to pursue their own passions, and even encourage some to find new hobbies.

Like many in our specialty, it seems Warren may have been destined for Emergency Medicine.  His father was a fireman with the California Task Force Team, whose assignments included countless wildfires in the state, as well as Oklahoma City Bombing and Hurricane Katrina.  The stories his father told always included the skill, composure, and ability of EM physicians.  Warren was given a personal glimpse of these heroics as a moulaged volunteer ‘victim’ for local drills, able to witness up close their acumen in diagnosis, triage, and treatment.  He reflects, “I was inspired.  Suddenly medicine, and more specifically emergency medicine, became my only dream for a career.”  Warren has matched at Harbor-UCLA and is, “extremely excited to be moving to start residency and continue learning more about this specialty that captured my interest so early in life.”

For those of us exploring new hobbies outside of medicine, he has some great advice.  His first recommendation is experimentation.  Without trying new or different avenues, we may never find the one that truly inspires creation, or provides fulfilling counterbalance to the stressors of work.  His other recommendation is to not be afraid of failure.  He recognizes, “No one is a master when just starting.  The important thing is to dive in and test it out: photography, painting, drawing, sculpting, poetry, writing, singing, baking, running, swimming,… Everyone will ‘vibe’ with something different.”

Physicians pursue many interests outside of medicine simply for sheer joy and pleasure.  Some of our diversions are a full escape from medicine.  Others provide introspection, deeper meaning, or self-discovery.  The same activity can serve very different purposes to different individuals.  Warren describes his art having an almost meditative quality, activities which “bring relaxation to the forefront of your mind, or offer you a quiet and pensive moment to be alone with your thoughts as you are processing emotions from work.  That is when you’ve started to discover which hobby may fulfill you the most.”

Focusing mainly on landscape and long exposure photography, Warren reflects, “Often, I can look back through my photography and remember the emotions, feelings, and mood from that day.  Spending the time editing the photos forces me to relive the happy, the sad, the mediocre, and the amazing.  Editing photos fills me with that sense of adventure, wonder, and awe that I felt when the photos were taken.”

Warren’s website transforms his personal fulfillment in photography to a collective space for others to share kindred talent and catharsis.  But photography editing and website publishing demand time and effort, “Editing the photos can often feel like a chore, [and] it can easily become another ‘to-do’ task.”  For those of us who have likewise turned our extra-curricular interests into formal commitments, he advises, “Take advantage of the times you feel inspired, the times you need a quiet respite and dive into editing.  Also, do not let yourself to be chained to just one project.  Allowing myself to work on several projects keeps my mind fresh and gives me a new place to restart for whatever mood I may be in.”

He can recall after a particularly hard week driving to a remote area, setting up his tripod, and capturing a few images of the Milky Way.  “The inspiration I get from seeing the galactic core suddenly appear in my image easily keeps me motivated and centers me.”  He also appreciates that, “while editing allows me to relive the experience, I find that the true act of hiking, or sitting under the stars, is what brings me peace, allows me to process difficult emotions or thoughts, and ultimately provides the solace that so many seek.  Photography is my passion, but so is being outside in the world.”  He actively reminds himself to put away his camera and take time to just enjoy the moment.  The images we are able to capture in our memory are just as important as the photos we shoot with our camera.

By: Dr. Michelle Caskey

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