Physicians with Passion: Neurologist and Photographer Walter Nieves

Art and science are increasingly seen as complementary, rather than opposites. Walter Neives, MD, a neurologist and avid photographer, is a case in point.

Photo courtesy of Walter Nieves, MD, practicing neurologist and photographer

“...When I go out with my camera I am using my imagination to look, interpret, and discover, and yes, find the beauty in what surrounds us. You might say that my motivation is in the feeling of being alive when going on a journey or adventure where you don't know where the journey will take you.” -Walter Nieves, MD

Suddenly art and science seem to be one. There is increasing attention to this area, now even with a residency combining the 2 at the Pioneer Works Center for Art and Innovation in Brooklyn, NY. Add to that a new website devoted to the concept: Art and Science Collaborations, and a 2013 article in the online Scientific American by John Maeda entitled “Artists and Scientists: More Alike than Different.” All suggest there is little dissimilarity between the 2.

My feeling is that at least some physicians, obviously trained as scientists, are inherently artists as well. Whether it calms them after a busy day at the office or would have been their first choice of a career under different conditions could be a subject of debate. What is important is that they are pursuing their artistic passions while they practice medicine. It compliments their working lives, making them more meaningful. In this column and the next 2, I will be profiling 3 of these individuals.

Walter L. Nieves is a full time practicing neurologist in Suffern, NY just outside of New York City. He also is a serious photographer. In fact, he feels that putting images into print is a part of his very being. He wrote in an e-mail, “…so my parents in putting a camera in my hands when I was five accidentally made it into one more of my physiologic functions!”

Nieves on the left; His photograph on the right

“…Just as you are what you eat you are also what you experience and what you let into your world including form, value and ideas…” -Walter Nieves, MD

This extension of Nieves’ soul has served him well. He takes photos all over the world that not only he and his family enjoy but others as well. Of this Nieves says, “I've always admired and enjoyed what the imagination can bring to life. Movies, sculpture, literature, architecture, painting and photography coming out of the imagination are first and foremost the essence of human existence and to appreciate it and do it is just as important as breathing and much more conscious fun!”

Photo courtesy of Nieves.

When practicing medicine, although science is important, so is the imagination and the ability to use it…” — Walter Nieves, MD

Clearly Dr. Nieves embraces life and the richness it has to offer and feels photography adds to it. In his own words, “photography, painting and even writing have kept me spiritually alive and in contact with the total world I inhabit and not just the small corner I sit in.”

This is consistent with my knowledge of Walter. I first met him just this year at a psychoanalytic conference in New York City. We were 2 of the few neurologists at the conference. For me, I was trying to brush up on whatever cobwebs of neurology were residual in my brain. But, Walter, still practicing, was going to put whatever he gleaned to work. To me, this exploration is representative of Nieves’ ability to pursue the avenues that life has to offer. He searches for the new and takes what interests him to be his own. In the case of photography, he not only developed the inherent talent within himself, but uses it so expertly that the rest of us can enjoy it as well. Doing so, he feels, makes him a better clinician.

Photo of Walter Nieves by Thomas M. Mueller Photography