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—playing off the theme of Origins—is a series of works by Zoe Wong, a third-year medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College. Zoe uses a letter from her grandma about Zoe's grandpa and his immediate family's immigration to the US from Hong Kong as a foundational text to explore themes of family origins, immigration, and health. We asked Zoe to tell us a little about herself and this project. Read on for her bio and interview!

Meet Zoe Wong

Zoe Wong is a third-year medical student at Jefferson originally from San Mateo, California. She attended Haverford College where she minored in fine arts with a concentration in painting. She is interested in exploring the intersection of art and medicine in her future career as a physician. 


zoe-wong-grandpa-stroke

"Grandpa's Mother Had a Stroke," digital illustration

Artist Statement

This project centers around a letter my grandma wrote to me about my grandpa and his family's immigration to the US. My grandma, a Japanese-American from Hawaii, and my grandpa, an immigrant from Hong Kong, have both been major figures throughout my life. When my grandma died unexpectedly at the end of 2019, I struggled with processing the loss and finding a way to still connect to her. As we slowly went through her things, I started saving little items of hers, including a copy of this letter she had saved, and used them to create artworks and decor for my home. This process helped me cope with her death and connect with my family's history. With my grandma's written words as a backdrop, these works explore my grandpa's origins and the medical conditions my great grandma and great uncle endured that became key factors in their immigration story. I hope these works resonate with other families of immigrants or those with family members battling complicated illnesses and highlight the importance of passing down stories like these for generations to come. — Zoe Wong

zoe-letter-1
Zoe's grandma's letter, page one
zoe-letter-2
Zoe's grandma's letter, page two

zoe-wong-grandpa-visa

"Grandpa Came in 1960 on a Student Visa," digital illustration

JH&H: How did you develop an interest in art?

Zoe: My family was keen on bringing my sister and I to art galleries as kids, and I started to obsess over artists like Salvador Dali and Rene Magritte who I felt really brought a unique perspective to the world. In high school, I started exploring art as a way to express my own personal viewpoint, and that interest continued into college. Working through my fine arts minor allowed me to explore various mediums and solidify this passion for creating. 

What mediums do you prefer to work in? Why?

In college, I focused on oil painting. However, over the past few years, I've started to make a lot of digital works on my iPad using the Procreate application. It was a huge learning curve for me to transition my artistic style to the digital space, but I think the easy set up and the endless possibilities within the app have helped push my creativity. 

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

For sure. For one, I think being an artist enhances your observation skills, which is crucial in examining and building a differential for a patient. I've also been lucky enough to head The Story Initiative, a student organization on campus that creates personalized children's books for kids in partnering orphanages. Creating stories for these kids has been so wonderful and has challenged me to think more about the importance of diverse representation in children's storytelling. 

Do you have a tip (or tips) for your classmates about how to nurture a creative practice while also being a student?

I know some people who have used their art background to create study materials for anatomy or create useful graphics for presentations. Personally, I like to set aside some free time on the weekends to work on an ongoing piece or to just create small sketches about things I've experienced that week as a form of reflection.

zoe-wong-but-cancer-was-us

"but cancer was us," digital illustration


Past Featured Student Artwork

beach-day
2020-2021 Featured Artwork | "Beach Day," digital illustration | Michael O'Connor, SKMC Class of 2023
2019-2020 Featured Artwork
2019-2020 Featured Artwork | "Gentrified," collage | Tariro Mupaso, JCRS Class of 2022
2018-2019 Featured Artwork
2018-2019 Featured Artwork | "Rhythm" | Aaron Miller, SKMC Class of 2021
busy-at-home-oconnor
2020-2021 Featured Artwork | "Busy at Home," digital illustration | Michael O'Connor, SKMC Class of 2023
2018-2019 Featured Artwork
2019-2020 Featured Artwork | "Progressive Battle," collage | Tariro Mupaso, JCRS Class of 2022
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2017-2018 Featured Artwork | "Neural Expressions" | Mike Natter, SKMC Class of 2017