Thomas Jefferson University

Featured Student Artwork

Each year, Jefferson Humanities & Health commissions a student to create a work of art that reflects our programming for the academic year. This year's artwork—inspired by the theme of Creativity—is a series of three digital illustrations by Michael O'Connor, a second-year medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College. We asked Michael to tell us a little about himself. Read on for his bio and interview!

Meet Michael O'Connor

Michael is a second-year medical student at Jefferson originally from Canton, Ohio. Before medical school, he worked as a high school science and art teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has always enjoyed making art. 


"Beach Day"


"Busy at Home"

JHH: How did you develop an interest in art?

Michael: I have loved making art since I was very young and can remember doodling in my workbooks during handwriting class as a kid. I was able to take studio art courses in high school and college with great teachers and professors who really fueled my creativity. The more I’ve made art and learned about art theory, the more I have been drawn to the visual arts.

What are your preferred mediums to work in and why?

I prefer photography and painting above others, but I also love drawing. Painting requires a great deal of focus, which is fun to get lost in. When it comes to photography, I prefer shooting on film because it requires more attention to detail than digital work; each picture on film is a mystery until it is developed. I am largely inspired by Contemporary American Art as well as Modernism and Abstraction. Most of my favorite artists work in paint (Georgia O’Keeffe, Ellsworth Kelly, Kehinde Wiley, Yayoi Kusama), or photography (Gregory Crewdson, Barbara Kruger). 

Are there any ways in which your art practice intersects with your medical education?

Yes, for sure. When I have time, I love drawing anatomy to help memorize structures. Art critique exercises in high school and college also taught me how to give and receive constructive criticism, which is a crucial skill to have in medical school.

What inspired this year’s featured artworks?

When I began these illustrations during the earlier stages of quarantine/self-isolation, I was at home in Ohio and had no art supplies with me aside from an iPad. I had never created a digital illustration before, but I chose this method due to both necessity and because it felt fitting at the time; like many of my peers, I was heavily reliant on technology for most aspects of my life. Suddenly, I was going to class, attending meetings, doing work, and socializing all from the same room and on the same screen. 

What do you like to do around Philadelphia?

Philly’s food and bar scenes are great (shoutouts to Goldie and Monk’s). I love taking walks around the city and running on the Schuylkill River Trail. I have also become a big fan of shows at Union Transfer and anticipate seeing live music again at some point in the future, when it is safe to do so.


"Busy Day Split"

Past Featured Artwork

2019-2020 Featured Artwork
2019-2020 Featured Artwork | "Gentrified" by Tariro Mupaso, JCRS Class of 2022
2018-2019 Featured Artwork
2018-2019 Featured Artwork | "Rhythm" by Aaron Miller, SKMC Class of 2021
2018-2019 Featured Artwork
2019-2020 Featured Artwork | "Progressive Battle" by Tariro Mupaso, JCRS Class of 2022
2017-2018 Featured Artwork | "Neural Expressions" by Mike Natter, SKMC Class of 2017