Art of Medicine
Aug 2021

American Value

Kelsey Coolahan
AMA J Ethics. 2021;23(8):E653-655. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2021.653.


A canvas of hand-carved woodblock prints in red ink and gold acrylic lettering offers a visual representation of physicians’ impulses to practice healing in the American health care sector.


Figure 1. Review of System


Figure 2. Detail from Review of System



Hand-carved woodblock prints in red ink on 5 x 4 ft cloth canvas with gold acrylic lettering.


The approximate, annual per capita cost of health care in the United States is represented by a hundred blood-red $100 bills. The bills also represent the multibillion dollar business of health care—the corporate mergers, private equity firms, and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs—that is shaping the health care landscape for better or for worse. Gold lettering in the background reads: “All other systems were reviewed and are negative.” This phrase, often auto-populated in clinician notes for billing and legal purposes, brings to mind the bureaucratic duties and constraints placed on American physicians. The gold font nods to the abandoned monetary system of the gold standard. This piece serves as a call to action for physicians and policymakers to review and address the driving forces behind today’s American health care system.


AMA J Ethics. 2021;23(8):E653-655.



Conflict of Interest Disclosure

The author(s) had no conflicts of interest to disclose.

The viewpoints expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.