Beyond the Procedure: Using Art to Showcase the Impact of Surgeons on Patient Lives


Surgery, like art, touches real peoples’ lives. When we began planning the 2019 Latin American Forum (LAF), we decided to create two pieces of art that would highlight how the impact a surgeon makes lasts beyond the procedure. When we happened upon artist Zen Palagniuk’s string art, we were inspired. Almost all surgeons use sutures as part of their craft to improve the lives of their patients. Could Zen use a medical supply like silk sutures to create a piece of art that could capture the significance of a surgeon’s work?

We approached Zen about our idea and he immediately had a vision for what he could create. Though he had never worked with sutures before, he was excited about the creative challenge. After a month of full-time work, Zen was able to create two patient portraits with over 13 kilometers of sutures and 15,000 nails in each piece. Although each patient had different procedures, one of them even before he was born, they and their families both expressed gratitude for the positive impact and change their surgeons created in their lives.

The LAF is an event hosted by Ethicon and the Johnson & Johnson Institute to further the professional education of physicians in this region and to contribute to the evolution of healthcare. For a week, about 500 surgeons from all over Latin America attend theoretical and hands-on trainings with the newest technology and techniques in their fields. For the 2019 edition, we took the opportunity to unveil these patient suture portraits to all the attendees in an art exhibition. The portraits were displayed along with the stories about how their surgeries changed their lives.

At Ethicon, we create tools for surgeons to do their best work – including less invasive surgery and faster recovery – and we are proud of their tremendous impact on patients’ health. We hope that these pieces are inspirational reminders to surgeons all over the world about the lasting outcomes they have on patient lives, because it goes beyond the procedure. Want to learn more about how these pieces were created? Watch the video!