All too familiar to the Class of 2013, Thomas Eakin’s The Gross Clinic pictures esteemed Dr. Samuel D. Gross, spotlit amidst a surgery scene.
If you are a sophomore you would have spent an afternoon during NSO analyzing this painting, our summer assignment. You would have had to pay special attention to the team of black–clad doctors, (a proxy for the advances that have been made in medicine), to the medical students in the background (some of whom are dazed in slumber) and to the deficiency of anesthetic methods. You would have been instructed to notice the absence of the hallmarks of modern medicine, especially when compared to Eakin’s The Agnew Clinic.
Returning to the PMA more than a year after my first encounter with the work, this is just what I did. Standing in front of the painting compelled me to reflect on the expectations I had had when I looked upon the work last year. We are rarely inspired to think back to the way we thought college would be and compare our hopes and predictions to its fruition. For me, The Gross Clinic has become forever entwined with my experience in Penn and Philadelphia.