Drawn to Radiology, He Still Makes Time for Art

Drawn to Radiology, He Still Makes Time for Art

A talented artist, Jesse Smith drew an interesting path from graduating college to arriving as a student at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Jesse Smith is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Minnesota.
Jesse Smith is a fourth-year medical student at the University of Minnesota.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in psychology from UC Santa Cruz, Smith stayed in his native Northern California to teach biology and anatomy at Yuba College. It took several years and a journey across the country for Jesse to begin working toward his dream career.

“It was honestly what I wanted to do the whole time,” he said. “It just took a little longer than I expected to get into medical school.”

It turned out Minneapolis was the perfect place for many reasons. Now a fourth-year student who’s pursuing a match with a diagnostic radiology residency, Smith’s interest in the field piqued during a rotation.

He made comparisons to his teaching background while watching radiologists perform consults and work with other specialties.

“I never considered radiology because I didn’t have a good idea of what radiologists do,” he said. “About midway through my third year, I did a little reassessment. I thought I was going into emergency medicine, but I took a broader look and did a core rotation in radiology. It was eye-opening seeing what diagnostic and interventional radiologists are doing day to day.”

Smith's pen and ink drawing of the US Capitol.
Smith’s pen and ink drawing of the US Capitol.

 He said Minneapolis has been a great muse for his art, too. Smith draws architecture using pen and ink and has found inspiration in the area.

“The buildings are more understated than in a place like New York or Chicago, but it’s there,” he said. “There’s fantastic architecture throughout this city.”

Smith’s interest in art started in California when he was house-sitting for a friend. He wanted to leave a note afterward and thought it would be fun to include a drawing of the home.

“I went out to the sidewalk and sketched the facade of their house,” he said. “They really appreciated it. That day, I went home and started drawing buildings and structures and homes and all kinds of things. It just completely ballooned from there.”

As a medical school student with a wife and daughter, Smith doesn’t have much free time to hone his craft. He estimates that he gets two or three hours a week for art.

Smith savors the time he spends pondering his next subject. He cycles the city, camera phone on hand in case he comes across just the right building or bridge.

“I love scouting projects,” Smith said. “That kind of quiet focused work is really appealing to me.”

Smith's rendering of Kendall Hall at California State University-Chico.
Smith’s rendering of Kendall Hall at California State University, Chico.

Art gives Smith a chance to wind down after a long day at work. Having side projects is important now and will continue to be so when he starts his residency in July.

“I’m an introvert with extrovert tendencies,” he said. “When I get tired at the end of the day after I’ve been seeing patients all day, it’s really nice to dive into an art project and just be focused for a few hours.”

Smith was the recipient of the 2022 University of Minnesota Fisch Art of Medicine Student Award for his drawings of historic U.S. public hospitals. He has a market for his work, including people who want their homes depicted.

“It’s raised a little bit of money to help pay the bills,” Smith said. “I like to stay active that way because it gets my artwork somewhere other than my studio. It’s nice to get it out in the world and be seen.”

His art also has helped causes that mean something to his community. After a devastating fire tore through Paradise, Calif., in 2018, Smith created a drawing of the beloved Honey Run Covered Bridge, which was destroyed in the blaze. Sales of the prints raised $5,000 for the Camp Fire Relief Fund.

“Even more than having my work get sold, I am particularly proud of times when my artwork can benefit other people,” he said. “This was one example that was particularly meaningful to me.”  

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