Shaping The World:

How Health Research Shaped Our World

Fine art collaboration with the
Pan American Health Organization.

The work invites the viewer to explore the stories behind some of the most important and influential changes in health, development and innovation the world has seen:

World touring exhibition.



Pedro Cahn works in the areas of clinical research, prevention and direct services for people living with HIV/AIDS. His work shows that now that there is the provision to treat HIV infection, people who are HIV positive can continue to be productive, contributing members of society. They can lead as fulfilling lives as anyone else, and contribute to society in the same ways as people who are not living with the infection. Cahn's right hand clearly represents people living with HIV/AIDS and reflects his view that they have the potential to burden an equal weight as those who are not. The AIDS ribbons are close to Cahn's face showing that when understood there is nothing to fear from the disease. Along his left arm, miniature versions of his right show the progress from treatment to productivity to fulfillment, using PAHO's AIDS awareness symbol as the beneficial climax to understanding, treating and accepting people living with this condition. Treatment is only a partial achievement in HIV/AIDS research. Continued investment in research may one day lead to a cure.


Dr. Elsa Moreno has worked in the field of perinatal medicine and research since 1952. One can see her field reflected in various ways in this work: the Madonna and child image, a small bronze statue belonging to Dr. Moreno recorded during the portrait sitting at her home in Tucumán, Argentina that she watches over, and the silhouettes of pregnant women in profile that surround her. She has promoted the adoption of effective, simple and accessible alternatives to fetal monitoring, which enhanced the quality of care in resource-poor settings. Images of these monitors can be seen superimposed along her arms. The handwritten '1952 continua...' is repeated in digital text behind Dr. Moreno showing the importance of her work in the past as well as its implications for the future.


Dr. Ciro de Quadros is presented beneath a representation of the universal biohazard symbol from which extend two deathly arms each holding a hangman's noose. The noose in each case represents death from infection. However, where Dr. de Quadros and his research on infectious disease is present, the hangman's noose lies broken and therefore posing no threat. The rope hangs directly in front of de Quadros' eyes, showing us how close a relationship he has with his subject matter, how intimate his knowledge is, but also reminding us that infectious diseases are always in front of our eyes. The empty, bleak tree stump on the right of the picture, behind the complete and lethal noose, describes to us the alternative if work like that of de Quadros is not done.


Rodolfo Llinas is a neuroscientist who has used research to help understand the brain and how the brain perceives 'the self'. Such is the importance of the brain as an entity on its own right, that Llinas requested that it had its own tree for this portrait. He holds it in his right hand elevated and exposed, revealing some of its magic, electricity and complexity. A key aspect of Llinas' research is on squid brains, which are basic versions of the human brain. His research has led to a better understanding of Alzheimer's disease. The squid that surround him evoke a feeling of the vastness of space. Llinas says that no matter how vast space is, our brain is at the centre of our personal universe. It is therefore imperative that we fund research into it. Without investment into research we cannot expect to progress. It's a no-brainer.


Paulina Taboada is a bioethicist who uses research to help address moral questions, especially about the treatment of people in the twilight of their lives. Her work helps to inform the difficult decisions that surround what is best for a person as they reach the end of their life. Taboada peers out from behind two skeletal light bulbs – death is being green-lit or red-lit: allowed to occur or prevented from occurring. Her watch, representing the timeline of one's life is bound to a finger resting on the figurative switch which will ultimately decide which light is to be illuminated. Naturally there are many questions surrounding this action. Considerations of all the factors surrounding such important decisions are indeed vast. Research helps highlight how best to apply medical intervention during these twilight days. This alongside the differing range of moral, ethical, religious and cultural mixes in the world opens huge questions.


For Patch Adams healthcare is about the experience. Here we see his trademarks humor, creativity, and joy, which in his vision of healthcare are essential and integral to the healing process. Patch's alternative methods of delivering primary healthcare information have had great success in parts of the world where traditional methods of education have thus far failed. Right at the top is the most comfortable seat in the house, reserved for the patient. It's all about making the patient as comfortable and happy as possible during what Patch describes as being the worst time of your life. Based on research results, Patch paints a different picture of healthcare. Could being in hospital one day be all about having the time of your life, not thinking about how much of it you have left? His bulldozer levels the ground where old, worn out ideas about healthcare once stood. But this is not done without first listening carefully to what is needed to replace them. This is why the colorful sprouts of a new way grow from Patch's ear. Additional research into primary healthcare could change the face of how we practice medicine, and improve the health and happiness of millions of patients around the world.


Maria Isabel Rodriguez, with her long career developing human resources for health and using research to inform policy decisions, is characterized in this image as having the qualities of a library. A rich source of knowledge, a key means to disseminate understanding to any and all without prejudice or favor, then using this knowledge to enhance the quality of healthcare. She looks out over a book representing her personal understanding of healthcare and from this thousands of smaller books flutter and fly the fruits of her wisdom making their ways to every corner of the Americas and indeed the world, which is depicted through the shadows across her face. The ring pattern made by the books, and her place within it, bring to mind an information symbol. Added to this the cross made as the book bisects the tree stump evokes the gender symbol for women, reflecting her achievement in becoming the first woman dean of the faculty of medicine at the University of El Salvador. Her roots and importance to the people of El Salvador are further reinforced by the silhouette of her country's national bird the Torogoz perched beside the open account of her vast knowledge.


Bernardo Kliksberg has looked closely at the relationship of economics and equity. His research presents new data that offers clear economic benefits to all. The long term outcome is everybody in society benefits – the “haves” just as much as the “have nots.” His research relies heavily on the analysis of data describing society. This is reflected in the pictogram-like arrangements of mannequins. The different sized figures represent ethnic groupings, relative wealth, access to education, access to healthcare, and so on. Each of the orange figures raises his hand in a vote for equity. The largest, most powerful figure has succeeded in getting a hold on the benefits promised by Kliksberg's research as embodied by his golden ring. However, as we are still in the aspirational stage, this benefit has not transferred to the other members of society. The figures in the top tier have reached the stage where everyone is benefitting from an equitable society. They are wearing the gold on their heads to show that they no longer have to reach and grasp; it is theirs already but is available to everybody to enjoy. The numbers and faded feel to the figures reminds us that this will take time and has not yet been reached. The purple figures have not voted for equity. One of their number, the largest, enjoys the trappings of success but his gold is worn internally. Additional research may sway new converts, and lead to grater advances in health and economics.


Plaza Sesamo's Lola, Elmo, and Cookie Monster show that a world of information, which can be small and out of reach for a young child as represented by the topmost globe, can be effectively magnified and animated into rich, colorful knowledge. Plaza Sesamo's team of researchers looks for the best way to get the message across to their young audience, and in this way each character brings his and her own personalities and roles to bear, adding to the experience of the viewer and ultimately the effectiveness of the message. In this picture you can see, after each research-based character has had their input, the product is multiple world views, and the growth of wisdom, represented in turn by the colored globes and vibrant flowers.

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