Krystyna Barnard
May 24, 2021

The Department of Radiology recently appointed Erin Cooke, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Radiology and professional studio artist, as Director of Arts.

The first position of its kind in the department, the Director of Arts will aim to illustrate the connection between radiology and the arts; develop novel means for integrating art in the department; and engage other physician-artists in a multi-institutional collaboration between the arts and medicine as a whole.

“Medicine as a field has long been referred to as an art, and radiology in particular has overlap with the arts, particularly the visual arts, given its visual and spatial nature,” said Dr. Cooke. “Much of the visual arts depends upon the recognition of perception, patterns and varying points of view, so learning from artists could also improve our own skills in perception in radiology.”

Since joining the department as body imaging faculty in 2020, Dr. Cooke has served on the department’s Art Gallery Committee, which solicits and selects art by talented faculty, staff and trainees for presentation in the Vanderbilt Radiology Art Gallery, an initiative launched by the Chair’s office in 2019. In her role as Director of Arts, she will provide oversight of that committee moving forward.

“Integrating the arts with radiology dovetails with many of the other initiatives we currently have, and will support and expand those ongoing efforts,” added Dr. Cooke. “The arts as a form of expression are a means of celebrating diversity and inclusion; they are a way for other voices to be heard, including women in radiology; and for many, exposure to the arts can promote wellness. It is a terrific means of connecting people across the department who might otherwise not interact, to help us learn more about each other, and to create a real sense of an inclusive, welcoming and curious community.”

Outside of Vanderbilt, Dr. Cooke serves on the American College of Radiology’s (ACR) Art Task Force, which was responsible for showcasing art by radiologists and trainees at ACR’s Virtual Annual Meeting earlier this month. As a result of the positive feedback, Dr. Cooke says she has plans to connect with other professional organizations, including the Association of University Radiologists, the Radiological Society of North America and the American Roentgen Ray Society, to develop similar committees dedicated to art and radiology.

“An expert radiologist, artist and educator, Dr. Cooke is perfectly suited for this new leadership role,” said Reed Omary, MD, MS, Carol D. and Henry P. Pendergrass Professor and Chair of Radiology. “She will enhance the creativity and well-being of our department’s students, residents, faculty and staff by helping us link our creative right brains with the more analytical left. Other departments across the nation will soon visit Vanderbilt to determine how they too can learn from Dr. Cooke.”

For years, Dr. Cooke has had an interest in the intersection of science and art. Prior to earning her medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Cooke completed a bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from Wake Forest University where she graduated as valedictorian of her class. Today, her paintings, inspired by Cubism, movement, textural studies and color abstraction, appear in public and private collections throughout the United States.