Beyond Being a Chest Specialist


A physician’s role is never just confined to the clinic setting. For some members of the PCCP, over and beyond their expertise on pulmonary and other chest diseases, these specialists pursue and nurture their passion for other avocations—be it in painting, writing, photography, being active on social media, and other means to express their creative side

Developing Talents to Survive the Rigors of a PCCP Presidency

By Dr. Charles Y. Yu

Leading a major specialty society like the PCCP is a considerable mental and physical challenge especially when it takes nine years to get to the top. When I assumed the office as PCCP President a year ago, I promised to inform members of the board’s activities under my leadership.

One way was to write an almost weekly blog (www.philchest. org and currently on its 43rd run) to our 700+ members to keep them up-to-date on the College activities. This blog also provides an opportunity to share my hobby to a captured audience, by sharing my paintings.

I learned to paint almost four years ago, almost by necessity as the rigors of clinical and research work, duties in various health councils, family life took a toll on my health and landed me in the hospital several times. I taught myself how to paint by watching YouTube videos (moving from acrylic to watercolor to oils). I remember painting a Koi as my first lesson but moved quickly from there to develop my own style and method.

Oils are my favorite but are the most challenging and hardest to do. Unfortunately, working with oils worsens my asthma probably from the turpentine which I use to remove the oil paint from my hands. Learning a skill at 57 is no mean feat especially for a busybody but I always look out for new challenges and new frontiers and worlds to conquer.

I idolize Leonardo Da Vinci, the original Renaissance Man and his prolific talents, a perfect example of gifted people who exhibit skills that cross different disciplines.

Friends marvel at the speed at which I finish my paintings; I can finish a medium painting in three to four hours or a small water color painting in under an hour. In celebration of my 60th birthday last November, I finished more than 60 paintings to give away to friends and relatives in a span of two to three weeks.

I always want to keep busy; hyperactivity has been something that people who know me well enough notice all the time. A developmental specialist once told me I probably have ADHD, which, looking back, is probably true; but which I overcame by keeping busy, edaciously reading volumes of books.

What’s the secret behind what people say is a talent or gift for painting? Well, sometimes it comes naturally but one sometimes feel there is a guiding hand helping one with his paintings. (I don’t draw or sketch but paint directly on the canvas).

But trial and error by doing over a hundred paintings, learning by doing and by working with the best ingredients (brushes and paints from here and abroad)—all of these are a must and also very expensive. Another secret is using my bare hands and fingers to blend the colors (especially the oils and watercolors) which is most beautiful when they merge and provide a kaleidoscope of hues.

It is an idea inspired by an artist Pacheco who works without brushes (whose works hang in my home and clinic). My uncanny sense of proportion I probably got from medical school; and my love for drawing dates back to my boyhood days. I try to create a living perspective (“3D”) in almost every work; and I pause to view the work from afar and at different angles and light.

My favorite is creating relaxing landscapes. I was once coaxed by friends to train under established painters but I said I wanted to develop my own style and not be hampered by traditionalists.

Watercolors are the easiest to create and I can easily finish small paintings in under an hour; but the original tint and hues of watercolor have to be appreciated while it dries as it naturally fades a little afterwards. On the other hand, what you see is what you get for oils and acrylics but it takes days for the oils to dry up.

I have always given away all my paintings, the largest number of paintings are with my only sister, Emy in Houston, Texas. I tell my close friends that I would like a ‘reunion’ of my paintings to remember me by gathering them together one last time during my wake. (I say that half-jokingly.)

What next? I thought I would outdo my idol da Vinci by learning how to cook (scallops, lobster thermidor, Chilean sea bass) by using social media of course but unsurprisingly, I learned even that was done by Leonardo complete with preparing feasts good for lords and kings.

Lessons learned? One is never too old to learn a trade or develop a hobby. In the course of my clinical practice, I badger my growing number of nonagenarians (those aged 90-99), and ask them for their secrets to a long life.

It is from them I have taken inspiration, and have learned to keep busy and be happy with what I do. For beyond diet, exercise, lifestyle change and good genes, it is in keeping busy that is the secret elixir to live longer and happier.

But it’s not just being busy—but being busy with a purpose and goal in life. When you know your life’s works matter to many people and are greatly appreciated by many; and when you are a blessing to others as they are to you, then perhaps sharing your gifts (my paintings in my case) is just a way of returning back all the blessings one has received. PCCP will eventually be a major repository of my works and legacies.

I hope to leave PCCP a better place then when I entered it. Sana, the paintings will remind them of my legacy and our work.

Aug 2018 Health and Lifestyle

4 (80%) 3 votes