Roy Vandam: Life and Art.  By Samuel W. Van Dam, A.A. Portland, Maine, Cambodian Arts and Scholarship Foundation, 2006. Pages: 60. Price: $250.00.

For many years, I have known Dr. Leroy David Vandam as a well-respected physician, a distinguished anesthesiologist, and a superb artist. This book is about his life and art narrated by his own son, Samuel W. Van Dam. It is an enjoyable book to read because it gives an insight into his personal life and shows some of his wonderful art. Moreover, this book carries messages that are deep and essential in anyone’s life.

Dr. Vandam grew up in an extended working family. For a few years, he and his family lived over the grocery store of his paternal grandfather, who was a Dutch immigrant. As a child, he worked as a delivery boy. Therefore, we do not need to provide our kids with golden or silver spoons for them to be successful in their life. A strong family and belief in oneself are the important elements.

One has to be realistic and know his or her weaknesses and strengths. Dr. Vandam, after studying both art and medicine, realized that although he was a good artist, he would not be at the top. Therefore, he concentrated on medicine, feeling that being a physician is much better than being a starving artist. But he did not abandon art, because he loved both art and medicine, which complement each other. Medicine refines the artistic ability by giving the artist a keen eye and in-depth view of his work. The study of anatomy, for example, is essential for any serious artist. By the same token, art sharpens the senses of the physician and makes him more compassionate. After all, medicine is an art and a science. Taking away the art from medicine and replacing it with numbers, machines, and charts does not serve well the human race.

We should be grateful for what we have, especially our health. Leroy Vandam lost his sight in his left eye, the result of a retinal hemorrhage at the age of 28 yr. Throughout his life, he was worried that he might lose his sight completely, become blind, thus ending his career in both medicine and art. The fall of the second shoe was a scary thought. But he was strong and optimistic. Maybe the loss of vision in one eye made him a better physician, a keener artist, and a kinder human being. Being realistic, he moved from surgery to anesthesiology. Realizing the blessing of still seeing, he became a prolific artist and publisher. He absorbed the beauty of nature, whether it is the sky, a beach, a boat, or even an old building or a shack. He reflected this beauty in his paintings, which are vibrant with life. I have never seen a watercolor artist who painted the skies so beautifully as Leroy Vandam.

Dr. Vandam was an anesthesiologist to be emulated. While he was the chief of service, he was the first to arrive to the operating room, at 6:00 am, snow or shine. He orchestrated the work and was aware of the performance of each of his residents and staff. He publicly supported each member of his department, though he might chastise them in private.

It is interesting to find a similarity between Vandam and Van Gogh. Both share a similar name, have a Dutch origin, and painted their old shoes; three paintings by Leroy Vandam in this book testify to that. Maybe they wanted to convey to us the message that the road to success is a long one. No wonder Leroy Vandam wrote that “the secret of success in medicine or art is hard work.”

In conclusion, this is a valuable book that should be readily available to physicians and artists alike. The high price of the book should not be a deterrent. After all, the proceeds from the sale of this book support the Leroy D. Vandam Medical Fund for the Cambodian Arts and Scholarship Foundation, taking care of the medical needs of art students and their families.

University of Texas-Houston (Retired), Houston, Texas.