Visual Art in Healthcare: A Conversation with Joel Pino ’98 | Minneapolis College of Art and Design

Visual Art in Healthcare: A Conversation with Joel Pino ’98

By Dan Nolin on September 13, 2021
Tank Room ; Dan Nolin
Dan Nolin

Healthcare and the Arts

Healthcare has room for artists—including art therapy, residencies where they work one on one with patients, medical illustration, or, like Joel Pino ‘98, medical photography. 

Mayo Clinic offers an Art at the Bedside Program, in which a local artist visits the hospital to work with patients. This has reflected positive patient outcomes. When the artist visits them, they curate a project to the patient's interests. This gives patients something to focus on and alleviate them from the physical and mental pain they are going through. Throughout the clinic and hospital, artwork from diverse backgrounds is placed where patients, visitors, and staff can enjoy.

So how can art and medicine go hand in hand? That is still in the works. Even without a background in healthcare, artists can contribute. Artists have a unique perspective and focus on the little things. We think strategically, outside the box, and about what needs to be done.

An Artist in the Field

I reached out to Joel Pino ’98, an artist currently working for Mayo Clinic, to get his take on working as an artist in the healthcare industry.  After obtaining his BFA in filmmaking from MCAD, he went on to pursue his MFA and moved to California where he worked on the Warner Brothers lot. Feeling limited by this job, he left and moved back to Minnesota after just three months. He briefly worked at Mayo as audio-visual support before another opportunity at the hospital came about: a surgical photographer/videographer. This consists of photographing surgical cases for research, educational purposes, and medical innovation. When medical videographers are filming a procedure, they are aiming to capture the surgical case.

How do you believe visual art is important in healthcare?

It’s important to patients who are there for life-threatening conditions. Mayo has art for the patients and their wellbeing. Surgical photography, this is going to be seen in a magazine..  Do it in a creative way. I think it is important for patients to forget why they are there. For surgical photos, you have to think on your toes. Think creatively for what the client needs.  
How did MCAD prepare you for your career?

It gave me the ability to learn a lot of stuff. I learned lighting, creative lighting, and cinematography. Be open to other ways of doing things. 
Taught you to think outside the box. It taught me to be flexible. 
What made you choose a career in surgical video/photography?

A connection at Mayo referred me. I wanted to work for my own production department. It was being at the right place at the right time. 

What are your favorite things about the job?

I love the non-consistent schedule of the job, and the need to be flexible and always shuffling and prioritizing my days, weeks of work. I love that I am not always just shooting images, or just video, or just editing. I have a large variety of work I can cover (this is really unique for what I do because most of my team either only does photos, or video, not both like I can). I like that I am not sitting at a desk most days either and am constantly moving. I like the interaction with the surgeons and getting to see the amazing things they do to help improve their patients’ lives. I like to know I am creating a positive impact on the patients’ healthcare with what I am covering for the patient's records, and towards the education of future medical professionals as my work is also used for education and training purposes.  
Anything else you would like to share with other students at MCAD?

Understand your tools. Experiment, try things that you usually wouldn't try. The staff is open.  You never know where your life will take you.

A Typical Day

So what does a typical day consist of? According to Joel, "It can vary. The surgical photographer can be in a surgical case all day from as early as 7:30 a.m. and can go as late as 9:00 p.m. An after-hours pager gets rotated amongst the team when they can be called in for a case."

A day-to-day in the life of Joel can look like the following: 

  • Running a video camera and a DSLR camera that is capturing the surgery from above the surgical field in both video and still images. This also includes shooting additional B-roll that can be used to hide time jumps in the final edited case, in some cases,  a camera set up for covering a patient's reaction. For example, during brain surgery, the patient will be awake and answering questions or even playing an instrument.
  • Editing the video footage and still images from a case or several cases.
  • Photo paging, which involves being on-call for operating rooms when they need images during surgery. Storytelling, capturing a variety of angles. 
  • “Since I am telling the story of the procedure through the images I am capturing, I need to make sure I am telling the story concisely and clearly with each shot. Sometimes I have time to think and try different angles, lighting techniques, and moving in and out as quickly as possible. A big part of the job is being efficient yet giving yourself the right amount of time to get the job done right.”
  • Office time, which includes catching up on emails, phone calls, and scheduling shoots, and billing for completed projects.  

Disclaimer: This article is not sponsored by Mayo Clinic.