When we asked Dr. Nigam Sedhai to tell us a bit about herself, as my open-ended opener, she described herself as a “Physician in Public Health and a new mom, who derives joy from the art of painting.”
Though she’s sold paintings in the past through word-of-mouth, she only recently mustered the courage required to share her work with a wider audience. “Each painting,” she said, “Reflects my love for color, beauty, movement, and life around me.”
It’s always intriguing meeting a physician artist. So we asked her more questions.
You have an interesting past that’s international in flavor. We’d love to hear about it.
Can you tell us a bit more about your role as a physician? What do your public health responsibilities entail?
In 2020, when COVID first hit, I transitioned my career towards non-clinical roles to prioritize a healthier work-life balance, artistic pursuits, stress reduction, and personal downtime.
I joined Masters of Public Health at Baylor University, started working as a Clinical trial Coordinator, steadily advanced to Clinical Trial Manager, and started giving more time to art.
In Nov, 2022 I had a baby.
Inspired by Dr. Fauci and Dr. Paul Farmer, I am now training as an intern to start my career as an Epidemiologist.
Data analysis, dissemination, proposal writings, and webinars are going to be my life soon.
Can you show us an example of a painting, and what it represents/means to you? Two’s even better than one!
The “Cow painting” was inspired from a line from the book “mountains beyond mountains” which is about the journey of Dr. Paul Farmer. “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world”. I am depicting the beauty of a cow and also depicting the reality of animal cruelty that will take her away.
“Optic migraine” is an original painting, completed on a 12 X 14 canvas fabric. This artwork is the result of several years of dedicated work, beginning in Nepal and concluding in the United States. Along its journey, it has traveled with me to various places, accumulating experiences and influences that have shaped its final form.
“Amalgam” is another original creation. I came up with this idea as I was analyzing courtship, partnership, and its basic concepts. The right side of the painting is what I bring to the Amalgamation which from my perspective, is a whole universe whereas, the left side is what the other person brings that isn’t as clear to me. In my mind, what’s brought to the union by the other person is a total mystery and all I see is circles spiraling in and out. The yellow and red spirals blending is the idea that we are blending in as well.
What medium do you paint with?
I use an acrylic medium.
Did anyone in particular play a pivotal role in first taking up art?
I started painting as a child but it wasn’t encouraged by my South East Asian family.
They encouraged it as a “hobby” but not more. It took me years to be able to put myself out there and share it with a bigger audience.
Is there anyone else in your family that’s artistic? Tell us about them, and their relationship to you.
No. Not that I know of.
I come from a family of business and entrepreneurship.
My mother, a business owner and director, has spent her entire work life in the automobile industry.
My brother recognized his passion and potential in business at the tender age of 17, and was able to forge a unique and promising career trajectory in business.
My father passed away when I was a teenager. He started his company very young too.
On the other hand, I knew I wasn’t like my family. I showed interest in Medicine, music, and arts, instead.
Are you creative in other aspects? For example, in writing, or anything else?
Although this is for other people to determine, I want to say yes.
I started writing poetry as a child. I hosted almost all the shows organized in my school until 10th grade.
During my time in school, I actively participated in dancing lessons and seized every opportunity to showcase performances.
I wasn’t the best painter in school, but I painted and knitted headbands for friends.
I always cut my own hair and I was the go-to person in my circle of friends when it came to haircuts.
I was in a rock band briefly during med school.
I do not claim to be great at any of these skills. That is not what I am trying to say.
Haha, but I’ve always gravitated towards artistic endeavors and can’t imagine a life without art.
How do you balance working as a physician, being a mother, and your art? Is there a secret sauce we need to be aware of?
Quite frankly, I didn’t have a lot of time to paint while in Medicine, but it’s always been something I’ve done on the side to unwind and channel my inner self.
It was natural to me.
Where are you selling your art? Is it on the website? Are you using third-party platforms?
I started selling through word-of-mouth in 2020.
I’ve only recently opened up to a larger audience through Etsy.
The link to my shop is here.
Do you have any advice for other doctors who may be thinking about pursuing painting as a side venture?
I want to say to doctors who want to pursue painting to take up painting as a source of liberation from all the demands in Medicine.
Because it is that, a liberating experience.
Allow painting to be an outlet for self-expression, a source of joy, and a means of re-centering yourself amidst all the stress.