ASHLEY DAVIDOFF MD – THE ARTIST
Ashley Davidoff is a medical artist inspired by dance, nature, the internal beauty of the body and a quest to understand how it all fits together. Originally from South Africa, his kindergarten teacher noted his love for dance and informed his mother, who hauled him off to tap and flamenco dance school. Despite his resistance (peer and social pressures) he evolved into a national champion of both tap and flamenco. He learned the disciplined approach in the pursuit of excellence, was surrounded and influenced by artistic and musical people and teachers, and inspired by a mother who taught him how to express himself creatively. He balanced this imaginative life with athletic pursuits in tennis, soccer, swimming, and the brutish sport of rugby.
In medical school, prior to a vigorous anatomy course and just prior to the initiation ceremony for the Hippocratic Oath, his anatomy professor explained that students in the course on the human body would dissect the whole person into his innumerable macroscopic component parts. The professor brought two prima donna ballet dancers and black belt judo experts into the dissection hall to display the perfection and complexity of human body when all the parts work together in perfect harmony. The background and context and the subsequent taking of the oath was an unforgettable experience, and has served as a major inspiration and quest for the rest of his career.
Ashley Davidoff realized he used unconventional learning techniques in medical school and misattributed this to a learning disability. His need to understand the detail by a framework of concepts, and his need to draw and understand through images and imagery, would later be described in educational evolution as right brained dominance.
This approach led him to create a web site called The Common Vein (http://thecommonvein.com) which educates through described concepts.
As part of his training and deep interest in the heart, he spent four and a half years in cardiology fellowship training. One of these years was spent in pediatric cardiac pathology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. This experience allowed him to explore the magnificence of cardiac anatomy and also introduced him to the art of medical photography and the power of astute observation.
Following his training as an interventional and cardiovascular radiologist, Dr. Davidoff felt a need to pursue art. He donned a backpack and a camera for a year, experienced the vistas of his beautiful native country South Africa for 6 months, and explored the museums of Europe for the remaining part of the year.
He had read that Einstein placed himself within his experiments, imagining the interaction of particles. He used this inventive idea to place himself inside the variety of cells within his body and imagined what it was like to be one of them. On his return to Boston USA, he exploded his experiences onto the canvas. At the age of 32 years, he created his first painting with no formal training. His medical artistic direction was the result of assimilating the inner beauty of the body and person with the similarly beautiful outward surroundings of nature.
He lives happily with his wife and four children in Massachusetts, experiencing the cultural roots of his adopted country. The commonplace trials and tribulations of caring for a modern family, with medical experience of intimate and close encounters with patients in pain, suffering, gunshot wounds, blood, and guts, near and impending death and the face of death itself have provided him a rich life experience and a source for artistic expression. Each year as an academic radiologist he dedicated to the study of a specific organ, describing the history, poetry, literature, and multidisciplinary medical information of the organ. His work has been presented at national radiology meetings and received many awards. It was also used to build the common vein. His art is displayed in the Boston Museum of Science and has been featured on television chronicles.
Ashley Davidoff pursues a recurring organizational pattern which applies from the atom to the universe, with biology between and an unspeakable power of perfection beyond. “Units to Unity” is a phrase he coined that reflects this repeating blueprint. The importance of the individual unit, the value of its independence, and also its dependence on something bigger and more powerful than itself, humbles us and inspires our pursuits.