VT Carilion School of Medicine Art Exhibit to Feature Medical Avatars

This medical Avatar by Virgil Wong represents a person with epilepsy.
This medical Avatar by Virgil Wong represents a person with epilepsy.

The powerful effects of habit on health will come to life in the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine’s newest art exhibit, Medical Avatar: The Health Time Machine.

In ancient times, avatars were supreme beings that descended to Earth for a specific purpose. In pop culture, the avatar concept – often the graphical representation of one’s alter ego – has become highly popularized through characters in entertainment media.

The art exhibit will feature the use of avatars to illustrate people’s views of their own health. For the show, which runs through March 2015, exhibitors were asked to submit self-portraits of themselves past, present, and future based on their adoption of a positive health habit or the discontinuation of a negative one.

The exhibit opened on Thursday, Nov. 20, at 2 Riverside Circle in Roanoke. A reception was held that featured a lecture by Virgil Wong, guest artist, researcher, and co-founder of the company Medical Avatar.

Wong’s company, started in 2011, builds mobile apps for hospitals to increase patient engagement for better health outcomes. He believes people can be motivated to practice better health habits by being able to visualize their digital personas.

“We find that it inspires self-transformation,” Wong said. “When patients see potential healthier versions of themselves, they’re inspired to live up to those visualizations.”

Visitors to the exhibit’s opening night will be able to try their hand at several digital health apps on display.

“This show is unlike any of the previous 10 shows we’ve had,” said Dr. David Trinkle, the school’s associate dean for community and culture. “It promises to be very interactive and motivational.”

The show is part of the school’s Creativity in Health Education Program. Founded by Trinkle, the program strives to expand the social, cultural, and humanistic awareness of the school’s students. The program also aims to involve community members in the life of the school.

The building usually has restricted access; therefore viewing of the art will be by appointment only. To schedule an appointment, email Lynne Pearo-Baker or call her at 540-526-2300.

– Catherine Doss.