In addition to doing my research study with patients in the PRC, I have been able to participate in a variety of other arts and medicine projects initiated by the Lyndra P. Daniel Center for Humanities and Medicine. For example, I was able to participate in the Humanities for the Physician Program at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. While there is a tremendous amount of training, education, and money spent on doctors, it is in the best interest of Mayo to make sure their employees are healthy, happy, and continually performing at a high level. Thus, this program was initiated to help doctors and residents not just manage stress but to increase interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, the quality of patient care, and their own medical knowledge. This program has also proven to prevent ‘burn out ‘ in the long run. The program consists of taking small groups of residents to The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens with an attending physician. We had lunch and then went into a gallery. The attending physician spoke about his personal experience of dealing with stress and led a meditation technique. They then were given a gallery talk of a temporary exhibit, followed by an interactive, reflective writing exercise inspired by the photos viewed in the exhibit. The program also includes viewing and discussing other exhibits. It was amazing how such a simple outing could have such a huge impact.
I was also able to participate in another Lyndra P. Daniel Center for Humanities and Medicine program, ‘Connect at The Cummer: Art for Alzheimers’ at The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. The program is modeled after similar programs at MoMA, the Met, Art Institute of Chicago and other major cultural institutions. It’s the only program of its kind in the region. For this program, about 10 Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers met at the museum and discussed a few paintings for about thirty minutes each. The discussions were led by a museum staff member. This program provided relief for the caregivers in addition to the patients. It gave the caregivers, who are often the spouse of the Alzheimer’s patient, a way to interact with their significant other, without discussing the treatment plan, the illness, or any other medical issues. I found this program to be exceedingly therapeutic and everyone involved really loved it.
Another program I participated in was the Strong Box project for a stroke support group. This took place at the Clinic and we administered a project called ‘the Strong Box’ for patients and family members who have had a stroke. The ‘Strong Box’ project consists of the patient writing positive attributes about themselves in white crayon on two pieces of paper, the patients then watercolors over the crayon, and the crayon shows through. They then fold both pieces of paper to construct a box with a lid. Inside the box, patients are encouraged to place tiny pieces of papers with their personal stressors written down. Everyone really enjoyed it and it seemed like it gave some needed stress relief to families and patients.
Before coming to Mayo, I had no idea how much the arts were integrated into healthcare. On the one hand being on campus, you are constantly aware of how sick people can become and how stressful it is both for the patients, but also for family members, doctors, and other health care professionals. Patients and families are often at the Clinic day after day, all day long for weeks. As an artist, not only did I quickly realize how important the visual surroundings of the environment are, but I began to realize how therapeutic some of these simple creative exercises could be. Additionally while doing my research study, I have come to notice that not only is there a physiological impact of creative processes on the body, but I have come to believe that measuring the physiological benefits of creative distraction methods will become increasingly important. Also, as a fine artist, I see this as a possible avenue of employment that I had not previously considered.