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Sculpting a Career in Medicine

How an interest in art is laying a foundation for orthopedic surgery
Izabela Pop

Izabela Pop

“I’ve always loved working with my hands,” said Izabela Pop, talking about how that knack led her to take pottery classes as a senior undergraduate student enrolled in the University of Miami’s Medical Scholars Program. Around that same time, Pop received confirmation that she’d be matriculating at the Miller School, where her handiwork has taken on another dimension.

While she welcomes the distraction from the rigors of classes and clinical work that pottery provides, Pop, currently in her second year, has also found a fundamental crossover between the disparate disciplines. “At first, I was terrible at pottery,” she admitted, and wondered, How do people do this? So she spent countless hours in the studio honing her artistic skills, “and ended up being pretty good at making things,” Pop said.

She described a similar learning curve in developing her medical proficiencies. “I’m most interested in orthopedic surgery,” she said. “During my surgical rotation, I marveled at what the skilled residents and attendings were doing. But the more time I spent in the OR, the more I built my foundation and gained confidence. That’s the parallel to pottery.”

Looking for yet another way to diversify her education, Pop is participating in the Miller School’s Ethics and Medical Humanities Pathway program, for which she’s creating a pottery project. “I’ve already sculpted models of a knee and a hip,” even adding surgical scars like those she saw when shadowing orthopedic surgeons, Pop said. For her final portfolio, she’s considering replicating hands, a shoulder, and an elbow.

Pop plans to continue blending science and art. “Learning a hands-on skill like pottery is definitely something I’ll be able use as an aspiring surgeon,” she said.