A new way to promote mental health

Carmen Aguirre, in red hooded cloak and long brown hair, holds a chain in outstretched hands.

The year before Carmen Aguirre started medical school at the U of M, a mentor advised her to find a hobby unrelated to medicine. A lover of music and art, she decided to side hustle as a video jockey—like a disc jockey, only chopping live video instead of music.

Later, she decided to become the one who made the visuals on the screen.

“I started teaching myself how to animate through AfterEffects and Cinema 4D and started making visuals and doing client work,” she says. “I started to draw more characters and things like that.”

This experience led her to into the world of cryptocurrencies (like bitcoin) and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). NFTs are one-of-a-kind items, part of the digital blockchain—a decentralized public network where people and companies can store and transfer information and currency securely.

The art of mental health

In her first year of medical school, Aguirre realized her artistic drives held immense potential for medicine. 

“I've dealt with mental health illness, and seeing how it’s often poorly met in a medical setting really inspired me to make all of my artwork related to mental health,” she says. 

Now Aguirre has completed two years of med school, and her art has really taken off. She’s sold at least 20 pieces, and has begun donating 10 percent of her NFT sales to support mental health resources and education at the U of M. 

As a physician, Aguirre plans to pursue pediatric neurology.

“I would really like to integrate the idea of art therapy into the work I do, especially if I go into pediatric neurology,” she explains. “There are a lot of kids with very debilitating cognitive diseases, and I think having an outlet for them to make art and talk about what they’re struggling with while encouraging them to paint and draw what they feel can be an amazing tool for healing.” 

Read more, check out Aguirre's favorite art piece.