Tag Archives: holistic

Candace Pert, Explorer of the Brain

Candace Pert, my favorite scientist, died recently from a heart attack…read the New York Times article.

Candace Pert, PhD.

Her book, Molecules of Emotion, had such an impact on me in terms of my work as a painter, and understanding the scientific basis of emotions on health and well-being. In fact, this blog, Creativity in Healthcare, was created based on the interconnectedness  of emotions on health and disease states. You may be interested in seeing a few paintings titled Molecules of Emotion“,  which focuses on the scientific work of Candace Pert.  This series remains a work in perpetual progress.

A bit of background on Candace Pert, PhD: 

As a  graduate student at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Candace discovered the receptor for opiates like endorphins (natural opiate), morphine, opium, codeine and other pharmaceutical narcotics.  Her discovery  eventually won the coveted Lasker Award, a precursor to the Nobel Price, but was awarded to the chief laboratory scientist, i.e., her boss. Who knows what the real reasons were for Dr. Pert not being awarded the Lasker Award, but she certainly didn’t get the recognition she so deserved!

Recommended Reading and Listening by Candace Pert, PhD.

I strongly recommend Dr. Pert’s book and audio lecture for those interested in learning more about the biochemistry of how emotions affect states of health.

  • Molecules of Emotion:The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine
  • Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind (audio lecture)

Both are available through candacepert.com and many online book stores.


Incorporating the patient’s perspective

Lupus or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a complex, chronic autoimmune disease of the connective tissues in which the immune system attacks itself by developing antibodies leading to widespread inflammation and tissue damage.  It affects nearly every organ in the body, such skin, joints, kidneys, brain, lungs, blood vessels and membranes, and is characterized by unpredictable series of flares and remissions (Medscape, 2010).  Prevalence and incidence of lupus is 3-5 times higher among African-Americans and Hispanics than Caucasians, with women of childbearing age more affected than men (Lim & Drenkard  2008).

Like many chronic diseases, treatment for lupus is focused on symptom management, and more recently, addressing quality of life issues.  In comparing health related quality of life (HRQoL) of patients with common chronic diseases (hypertension, congestive heart failure, adult onset diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction and depression in the US), the general health  of patients with SLE is significantly lower and affects every area in quality of life (Jolly 2005).  McElhone, Abbott, and Teh (2006) also found SLE patients had HRQoLs comparable to those with severe medical illness, such as AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s Syndrome.

Quality of life refers to an individual’s physical, emotional and social wellbeing, including their ability to function in the ordinary tasks of living. It is a personal definition and perspective, one that will vary from person to person despite similar circumstances and disease conditions.  The state of well-being is not only the absence or management of disease, but rather equilibrium between the physical and emotional states as defined by the individual.  Candace Pert is one of the first scientists to recognize that the brain and the immune system might communicate on the molecular level.  In her book, Molecules of Emotion, she explains the bi-directional communication network as “every change in the physiological state is accompanied by an appropriate change in the mental emotional state, conscious or unconscious, and conversely, every change in the mental emotional state, conscious or unconscious, is accompanied by an appropriate change in the physiological state” (Pert  1997). 

  For patients with SLE, outcomes such as fatigue, pain, return to normalcy, physical and emotional well-being are the highest priorities in achieving wellness, and degree of psychological distress was found to be the best predictor of quality of life among patients (Heller & Shadick  2007, Seawell & Danoff-Burg  2004).  By reducing stress and depression, and increasing social support, better health status could be achieved.  Adequate social support is reported to be a protective factor against premature mortality in patients with SLE (Pons-Estel, et al. 2009).

Because of the physical, social and psychological manifestations of SLE, outcome measures should not be confined to just mortality data, disease activity and damage, but include the patients’ perspective on their own health status and quality of life in order to fully understand the whole patient (McElhone, et al.  2006). 

Incorporating the patient’s perspective into the clinical picture is becoming increasingly emphasized.  In 2002, OMERACT’s (Outcome Measures in Rheumatoid Arthritis Clinical Trials) concluded their annual conference with the goal of pursuing research to incorporate the patient’s perspective into outcome assessment (Carr, Hewlett, Hughee, et al. 2003).  Interestingly, the importance of attending to quality of life concerns was addressed by Daltroy & Liang (Harvard Medical School) in 1993.  The need for education, communication, coping skills, social support, pain management, and promoting patient control and diminishing helplessness were highlighted.            Note: The painting is a self-portrait painted by a patient.              

Two studies using visual methods to address the importance of incorporating patient perspective in SLE patients are worth mentioning.  According to Büchi, et al. (2000) perception of disease is a measurable phenomenon, and the Pictorial Representation of Illness and Self Measure (PRISM) offers a quantitative method of measuring the patient’s perception of suffering caused by SLE.  The second study used drawing to understand how lupus was experienced by patients, felt and how the manifestations of the disease influenced patients’ emotions and behaviors (Nowicka 2007).  By providing patients with a sense of control in reaching their personal definition of wellness leads to better outcomes (Heller, et al.  2007).

Assessing patient reported outcomes on health related quality of life (HRQoL)  instruments is one method  is one method of corporating patients perspectives in treating the whole patient. Another useful modality is the use of arts interventions in conjunction with a generic HRQoL assessment tool.  Utilizing art as a non-invasive intervention is another novel way of promoting and incorporating the patient’s perspective in understanding and managing the physical, social and    emotional burdens of lupus.  Note…the painting is a self-portrait painted by a patient.



 When the arts are used in health care settings, many define and view the act of creating art as ‘art therapy.’  This needs clarification.  Art therapy is professional one-on-one counseling provided by a licensed art therapist using art materials as the mechanism to facilitate communication between patient and therapist (Malchiodi 2003).  However, the idea that creating art can be a natural healing process is believed by not only art therapists, but artists, health care professionals, and many in the general public.   For use in health care settings, creating art needs to be viewed as a non-professional experiential modality in the context of a holistic framework, whereby the process of creating art is in itself therapeutic.


Physicians and Creative Interventions…

Have you ever wondered whether physicians believe in the healing properties of the creative process or even considered utilizing creative interventions  in their professional work?  A post written September 11, 2009,  titled ‘Healing the Healer’  highlights one physician (Robert Climko, MD, MBA) who embraces and implements the creative process through the written word, also known as narrative medicine.  The use of Creative Interventions in healthcare applies not only to patient care, but also healthcare professionals.  In either case, engaging in the creative process epouses the Self-Care theory taught in nursing curriculums.

Here’s another physician who embraces and promotes creativity and arts activities.  A family practitioner based at University of California, Gabrella Miotto, MD, MPH discovered the healing benefits of engaging in the arts through personal experience.  In an article in a Family Medicine journal, Dr. Miotto states,

“What is clear is that healing is an inner process through which a person becomes whole, more individuated, though not necessarily cured, and that creative expression allows us to create meaning through our personal inner intuitive resources.”

With this newfound belief, Dr. Miotto and artist Laurie Zagon, introduced a therapeutic arts program for adult patients suffering from grief, anxiety or depression.  The arts program is called ‘Bien Estar (Well-Being).  Wanting to share her belief that engaging in creative interventions with her colleagues, Dr. Miotto presented a workshop titled “Creativity and Healing: An Experiential Workshop,”  at the American Academy of Family Physicians Scientific Assembly and Wonca 2004 meeting.

By implementing creativity and the arts in healthcare systems, patients, families, staff, healthcare professionals and local communities all benefit by enhancing collaboration, harmony, compassion, tolerance, acceptance, empathy and self-care.  Below are a few creative interventions worth considering…

Artist-in-Residence program





Laughing Clubs

Creative exhibits with work created by patients, families, staff and healthcare professionals

Drumming circles

Indoor and outdoor gardens

Art at the bedside for patients and families




 And now I leave you with this poem by one of my favorite poets…Rumi

Rules About Restraint

There is nourishment like bread

that feeds one part of your life

and nourishment like light for another.

There are many rules about restraint

with the former, but only one rule

for the latter, Never be satisfied.

Eat and drink the soul substance,

as a wick does with the oil it soaks

in. Give light to the company.

~Jelaluddin Rumi (1207-1273)

translated by Coleman Barks 

 Email me if you want the bibliography.


Is it Art Therapy?

When I conduct the Creativity Workshops in healthcare environments, someone never fails to ask me if I’m an art therapist – I am a Registered Nurse and artist.  People automatically assume, and understandbly so, one must be an art therapist when working or helping patients wih art.  As an artist and nurse, I want to introduce the idea and concept of what the arts can do for patients.  Engaging in the creative process, the arts, is healing and should be integrated into healing environments – into hospitals, outpatient treatment centers, doctors’ offices, the VA, residental centers, long-term care facilities (nursing homes), home care, and hospices.

When you engage in a creativity activity, aka the creative process, you become your own therapist.  The therapy (which you facilitate) is to access that space that is intuitive, invisible, intangible, healing, and brings you comfort and pleasure by creating a tangible object.  It can be a painting (in my case), a beautiful garden, poetry, a book or journal, a crafted piece of work, a short story, playing music, singing, helping others, drumming – the medium is not important.  Whatever you are experiencing or feeling will manifest outwardly in your creative project.  Now, this is not to say art therapy is not necessary…it may be for certain individuals who need individualized professional counseling. 

So, the question of “Is it art therapy?” still remains unanswered.  The answer is “yes”, but not in the traditional sense of the title ‘art therapy.’  The nurse/artist/social worker/physician/creativity facilitator is an advocate of creativity by facilitating and encouraging art-making… the patient is her/his own therapist by willingly engaging in the creative process…the therapy is the actual art-making itself.

From review of the literature, incorporating creativity into nursing’s framework of care is more practical, versatile and non-threatening over other therapeutic models, i.e., therapy.  In nursing terms, creative activities can be referred to as “creative nursing interventions.”  Traditional psychotherapy may not provide the best approach to working with patients, because most patients do not view themselves as needing psychotherapy.  Engaging in the creative process is what facilitates healing at the spiritual, emotional, cognitive and physical levels.  In fact, many patients may feel threatened if an arts program is referred to as art therapy.  Rather, patients want to gain a sense of control of an unfamiliar environment. (1)

Email me if you want the bibliography.

Your Body as Healer…

An article titled “Miracle Survivors,” in Forbes (March 2, 2009), portrays stories of people who have spontaneous remissions from several different types of cancers. Explanations by the medical community range from “…a complete mystery,” “divine intervention,” or “the immune system.”  With regard to the latter explanation, our bodies have all the necessary elements to heal itself. 

Everyone knows who Deepak Chopra  is…here is his explanation and understanding of spontaneous remission taken from intentblog

“Essentially remission is based on our understanding of the science of self-repair. Our bodies have learned to heal themselves over millions of years of mhand_bodymindsoulemotionevolutionary time. Our bodies are the best pharmacies in nature. They make antibodies, sleeping pills, tranquilizers, immunomodulators, and anti-cancer drugs in the precise dose at the precise time and for the right taget organ; and all the instructions come in the packaging! The “packaging” is your own inner self – the ultimate and supreme genius which mirrors the wisdom of the universe.  Cognition or thinking, moods, feelings and emotions, behavior, social interactions, personal relationships, environment, diet, and the inner world of consciousness including attention and intentionality all influence the biology of healing.”

Now, back to the Forbes article…

It states that “spontaneous remissions are among the rarest and most mysterious events in medicine, with only several hundred cases that can be considered well documented.”  In 1993, two authors for the Institute of Noetic Sciences, created a database of  medically reported cases of spontaneous remission in the world from more than 3,500 references.  This data shows the ability of our bodies to heal itself is not such a rare event. 

Btw, the authors defined spontaneous remission as “the disappearance, complete or incomplete, of a disease or cancer without medical treatment or treatment that is considered inadequate to produce the resulting  disappearance of disease symptoms or tumor.” 

Activate the body’s self-healing properties with Creative Interventions in Patient Care:

  • Art-making
  • Writing
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Humor
  • Laughing Clubs
  • Art Exhibits with artwork created by patients, families, professional staff
  • Indoor and outdoor gardens
  • Art at the bedside
  • Limitless possibilities


Some Messages for Contemporary Medicine…

A little humor for the day by Groucho Marx:

 “I never forget a face, but in your case, I’ll be glad to make an exception.”

I recently read an article written by two physicians in Greece titled, “The Modern Hippocratic Tradition: Some Messages for Contemporary Medicine.”  The article provides background information on Hippocrates and his major achievements in medicine, namely, modern medical practice of attributing disease to natural causes, and treating based on observations, reasoning, and experience.  However, Hippocrates believed and treated his clientele as psychosomatic entities, a holistic medical approach, unlike modern medicine practice which is very depersonalizing and singularly focused on treating the body – not the whole person.

There are many fine points on the state of current medicine (undesireable) and the need for the medical establishment (and healthcare in general) to return to and embrace the basic philosophy and principles of Hippocrates.  Here, I will mention a few by putting the points in quotation marks.  But, read the entire article which you will find interesting.  Source: Marketos S, MD and Skiadas P, MD.  The Modern Hippocratic Tradition: Some Messages for Contemporary Medicine. Spine 1999;24(11):1159-1163.

“…In our times, there is a tendency to forget that the patient must occupy the center of our attention, and in forgetting this principle, physicians have almost lost control of their profession.  The innovation that Hippocrates introduced to medicine was the holistic approach to the patient…he considered and treated the patient as a psychosomatic entity and not as a mere sum of organs…”

“He believed that the human body acts as a whole, so that when an organ is ill, the whole body is being afflicted.”

Hippocrates had a strong faith in nature’s healing power.  He observed the course of  the disease, trying not to interfere with nature.  This attitude should not be explained as a passive stand toward the healing process, but as a respect for nature’s power to cure.  One of his principles is, “Merely give nature a chance, and most of the diseases will cure themselves.”

“Interest has shifted from clinical evaluation of the patients to the assessment and interpetation of sophisticated procedures. In many cases, the efficacy of advanced medical means is being overestimated.  Apart from the fact that exaggerated trust in technology can lead sometimes to inevitable mistakes, this attitude tends to alienate physicians from their target, namely the patient.”

“…the fragmentation of medical science has created a type of physician who regards the patient as a disordered mechanism rather than a psychosomatic entity…”

Hippocrates believed ,”the physician must assist nature, which is the physician of the diseases.”  The natural environment is constantly and rapidly being degradated through contamination of water and food, accumulation of chemicals, nuclear pollution, and the spread of radiation.  The consequences of these environmental changes are apparent already.  Cancer and cardiovascular disease affect a great percentage of Western countries.  This undeniable reality prompts us to rediscover the principles regarding healthful behavior, the quality of life, and the healing power of nature.”

“…biomedical technology has ignored the psychosociologic aspect, treating the patient more or less as a disease and not a unique human entity.  Depersonalization of the patient and a lost sense of his or her individuality can be confronted by keeping the Hippocratic humanistic values in perfect balance with progress in technology.”

“…medicine more than ever senses the need to combine the concepts of humanistic values and the Hippocratic messages with the techonoloic ‘imperative’ (power).  This bond is necessary to the improvement of medicine in the future because, currently, the enormous biomedical technology so far has contributed little to the traditionally human fields of psychosomatic and functional disturbances, posing new dilemmas and threatening scientific problems.”

So, what do YOU think about all this…?


Rx:Listen to Music


Rx: Listen to Music

Is listening to music good for us?  Does music help in healing medical ailments?  Is there science supporting the benefical effects of the arts?  These are just a few questions raised  and being studied by scientists across the globe.

In a recent New York Times article (March 29, 2009),  Michael Roizen, MD – chief wellness medical officer of the Wellness Institute at the Clevland Clinic – states listening to classical music on a consistent basis suggests “decreases in all-cause mortality, reflecting slower aging of arteries as well as cancer-related and environmental factors.  Attending sports events like soccer or football offers none of these benefits.” (1)   He states he’s not sure if the decrease in all-cause mortality is due to stress relief or other properties.

Dr. Michael Roizen is also studying the effects of singing to help patients with strokes to relearn language.  Remember the singing1999 movie “Flawless?”  The main character (Robert Deniro) suffers a debilitating stroke and is prescribed to take therapeutic singing lessons for his paralyzed larynx.  His music teacher is his gay next-door neighbor.  The outcome from taking singing lessons is positive, for relearning and regaining speech AND learning tolerance of different lifestyles.

Another researcher in neurocognition of music and language at U of Sussex in England, Stefan Koelsch, is studying the same subject, i.e., music-notes2active music participation by patients suffering from depression.  According to the Mr. Koelsch, “physiologically, it’s perfectly plausible that music would affect not only psychiatric conditions but also endocrine, autonomic and autoimmune disorders.”

The main purposes of the article was to shed light on the collaborative efforts of the music and medical fields to quantify the effects of music on patients diagnosed with certain disease conditions, and highlight several companies creating and marketing propietary music  for ‘medicinal purposes’.   Here are a few interesting points made in the article: unlike prescription medication with known side and adverse effects, listening to music has no side effects; prescribe music as a prescription, just like prescribing a drug or therapeutic modality. And finally, listening to music does affect mood and well-being.

Hippocrates2The therapeutic effects of music  is not new news…the method of delivering music, marketing and money needed for these new elaborate systems are.  WHO is paying for the high-cost of audio systems fit for concert halls in hospitals?  Instead, pay musicians to play in clinical settings.  Music is their passion and their presence will help humanize an environment that can be frightening and dehumanizing.

Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing recognized the beneficial power of music on the sick. (2)  Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, believed that the human body acts as a whole, so that when an organ is ill, the whole body is being afflicted, ie., humans are psychosomatic entities. (3)

Numerous investigations on the effectiveness of music on adult patients in critical care settings in the 1990’s showed reduced anxiety states (4-6),  physiological relaxation as evidenced by reduced vital signs (blood pressure, heart rate and respirations), improved mood in critically ill patients on mechanical ventilation (7-8), and published accounts indicate critically ill patients enjoy and find music helpful in dealing with the environment and in coping with the critical illness itself .(6,9-10)


For healthcare professionals working inpatient and outpatient venues, and families with a loved one going through medical treatment, try music as a creative intervention by gathering the following:

  1.  Headset
  2. iPod or CD player
  3. Playlist of the patients’ favorite music – soft, classical or sounds of nature
  4. Play the music on a consistent basis

Here’s my Rx for you…

‘Time to Say Goodbye’


Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman


Concierge services in hospitals…

Back in February 2009, I wrote a post titled ‘Creative Interventions as Patienttinybrain Amenities in Hospitals’ based on an article in BusinessWeek (Feb. 16, 2009).  To summarize, the article cited a RAND marketing study indicating concierge/hospitality services as more desireable than high-quality patient care.  If this is any indication how consumers think and choose their healthcare institutions based only on plush accomodations versus low mortality (death) rates to recover from mild to life-threatening conditions, we are becoming a nation of non-thinkers.  Concierge services does NOT equal high-quality patient care!

As an advocate for integrating creativity and the creative process in healthcare, I believe creating environments conducive to the healing process is a step in the right direction.  But concierge services?  How do these services help patients and monet_givernyfamilies heal?  Are there any long-term benefits of  hotel-like services for patients?  Or have hospitals strayed from their original missions and visions?  I believe the latter may be true, i.e., hospitals have lost their original vision of healing the sick in an attempt to gain market share, but at (Garden at Giverny, 1900 Claude Monet)                     least we’ll be able to attend a cooking class at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.

And this trend of hospitals offering concierge services termed ‘amentities’ is growing.  In July 2008, USA News had an article titled, “Who Says a Hospital Stay Can’t Be Fun?”  It shed light on the growing movement of hospitals to function more like hotels by offering amenities, such as gourmet dining, fine art, field trips, cooking and gardening classes, afternoon tea service, Wi-Fi connection, and much, much more!

Here’s a few examples of amentities offerings at some hospitals across the US: Century City Doctors Hospital in Los Angelos’ markets it’s menu created by Wolfgang Puck…installed flat-screen TVs in all rooms…M.D. Anderson Cancer Center offers patients field trips to local museums…cooking classes at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital.  I wonder if patients attending a cooking class or taking a field trip actually need to be in the hospital.  WHO is paying for all this luxury?


Let’s offer Creative Interventions as Patient Amenities.  At least, there is scientific data to support the benefits of engaging in the creative process and the arts.  Read ‘The Science Supporting Creativity in Healthcare’ under TOPICS on the left side.


Creative Interventions = Patient Amenities

Creative Interventions = Smart Marketing Strategy

Creative Interventions = Cost-Effective Treatment Modalities

catherinelindaMHand_nurses fingerprint_blue sm

 Activate the body’s self-healing properties by exploring the  relationship between art making and self-care with

Creative Interventions in Healthcare:

  • Art-making
  • Writing
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Humor
  • Laughter clubs
  • Art exhibits with artwork created by patients, families, professional staff
  • Indoor and outdoor healing gardens
  • Art at the bedside
  • Creative interventions for healthcare professionals
  • Integrative medicine modalities

Blair Sadler, former President & CEO of Rady Children’s Hospital & Health Center (San Diego) and strong supporter of the arts in healthcare said the following…

“The arts optimize patient care and can create a strategic business advantage by differentiating themselves from competitors, and effectively garner support for starting and maintaining art programs.”


Nature…the ultimate healer.

Drawing as a diagnostic tool in lupus patients

Here’s another interesting article on the use of drawing as a diagnostic tool in Med-U-Gdanskassessing people diagnosed with lupus, aka, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).   A qualitative study was conducted at the Medical University of Gdansk, Poland with 2 main goals.  First, to examine the ways illness is perceived and experienced by patients with lupus and second, to assess the use of drawing as as a diagnostic tool.

But first, let’s look at some facts about lupus…

What is lupus or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)?

According to the Lupus Foundation in Washington, D.C.,  “lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, kidneys”, heart, blood vessels, lungs and brain.

Lupus, like rheumatoid arthritis, is an autoimmunie disorder where the immune system cannot tell the difference butterfly_lupusbetween foreign substances and its own cells and tissues.  The immune system is designed to attack foreign substances in the body, but in lupus, something goes wrong with the immune system and begins to make antibodies that attack healthy cells and tissues causing inflammation, pain and damage to the body.

  • The primary feature of lupus is inflammation and is characterized by pain, heat, redness, swelling and loss of function, either on the inside or on the outside of the body (or both).
  • For most people, lupus is a mild disease ususally affecting a few organs.  But, for others, it may cause serious and even life-threatening problems.
  • Lupus affects more than 1.5 million Americans, and at least five million persons worldwide.
  • There is no known cause, but is believed to be triggered by a number of factors, such as environment and genetics.  Environmental factors triggering the disease are infections, antibiotics (sulfa and penicillin groups), UV light, certain drugs, hormones and extreme stress.
  • Scientists believe there may be a genetic predisposition to the disease, as lupus is known to occur within families. But, there is no known gene or genes which are thought to cause the illness.
  • More than 16,000 Americans develop lupus each year.
  • Lupus is more prevalent in women of African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American culturesmulticultural
  • Symptoms may be sporadic. The times when a person is having symptoms are called flares, which can range from mild to severe. New symptoms may appear at any time.
  • Common symptoms include: pain or swelling in joints,  muscle pain, fever sad-sunwith no known cause, red rashes on the face, chest pain when taking deep breaths, hair loss, pale or purple fingers or toes, sensitivity to the sun, swelling in legs or around the eyes, ulcers in the mouth, swollen glands, and feeling fatigued.

(Sources: Lupus Foundation, NAIMS/NIH)

 And now, back to the study on the use of drawing as a perceptual and diagnostic tool in assessing persons with lupus.  To summarize, the key points are below:

  1. Patients’ perceptions of their disease influences emotions, behavior, health care needs and expectations, and these perceptions results in differences in attitude, coping and functioning among patients with similiar clincial symptoms.  Which means patients’ personal views and attitudes of their disease differ despite similar clinical symptoms and diagnosis, and are important in promoting self-care and self-responsibility.
  2. Perceptions of illness can be a better indicator of future physical damage to the body and health condition than clincial signs and symptoms.
  3. Currently, the primary draw_crayonassessment tool in measuring illness perception is verbal communication.  By drawing their disease,  it had patients think about their disease in a different way, and produced “incredibly tangible” insight of the impact of lupus to the patients themselves and healthcare professionals.
  4. The study concludes there are a variety of symptoms and different clincial pictures based on the drawings, rather than ‘general’ symptoms experienced by patients with the same diagnosis.
  5. Drawing as a diagnostic tool can help healthcare professionals avoid forming and categorizing patient symptoms with the same diagnosis.

Asking patients to draw their disease provides a wealth of information  they may not be able to express in words.  The old phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ definitely applies here.  This is helpful in developing more individualized treatment plans that take patients’ perceptions and attitudes of their disease into account.  By actively engaging patients’ to take interest in their own treatment plans, the tenets of self-care and self-responsibility are more readily accepted by patients, thus leading to better patient outcomes.

Drawing provides valuable sensory and cognitive information to health professionals in understanding and treating patients with different disease conditions, not just lupus.

Note: email me if you want the bibliography

Below is a favorite Rumi quote…


Have you figured out what your particular work is?

Exemplary Arts Programs in Healthcare

“Rome fell because of a leaching away of meaning and a loss of faith.” ~lewis mumford

A few years ago, I spent many hours researching periodicals  and other sources to glean information on scientific research supporting the arts in healthcare systems.  The research was in preparation for a proposal I was writing for developing an arts program for a metro-Atlanta healthcare facility.

While researching, I learned of a plethora of hospital systems with arts programs mhand_bodymindsoulemotionvarying in degree of comprehensiveness, from small galleries to well-developed arts programs that spoke volumes of the mission and values of those organizations and their leadership.  Clearly, these hospital systems valued and believed in holistic care, and created an environment conducive to healing on multiple dimensions: body-mind-soul-emotion.  They were the pioneers, believing in the benefits of the arts and implementing such programs without needing scientific data.  Those who managed these organizations gave their hospitals – souls.

Although there are a number of healthcare organizations with arts programs here in the US, there are 3 worth mentioning because of their early vision and date of inception.  What started off small led to developing other forms of arts programming for patients, staff and local communities, thereby, fostering goodwill and unity with oneself, families, healthcare staff and local commUNITIes.

“We know too much and feel too little. At least, we feel too little of those creative emotions from which a good life springs.” ~bertrand russell

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Project Art, Iowa City, Iowa

Starting as early as 1976, prints were purchased for public areas in an effort to humanize the hospital.  The positive response from patients, visitors and staff to the paintpalette1increased presence of visual arts led to conducting a feasibility study in 1977 which recognized an interest in and a need for art in the health care environment. Project Art was inititated in 1978.  Project Art started with small, temporary, monthly art exhibits and leasing of art to adding other creative activities such as the Art Cart and Art Supplies for Patients.  Performing Arts events feature music, dance and theater.

In 1997, JCAHO (aka Joint Commission) upon reviewing UIA stated the following…

“Throughout its development and to its core, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics believes that it must not only assemble the human expertise to make the healing, education and research components of its mission possible, but also must create an environment that promotes both healing for the patient and respite for the family. Call it the ‘environment of care…’ (Doing The Right Things Right, Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, 1997.  UIA Project Art website).

janet2(self-portrait by participant in Creativity Workshop for People with Cancer, 2007)

Duke University Medical Systems Cultural Services Program, Durham, NC

Duke University Hospital’s Cultural Services Program is another pioneer in integrating the arts. Established in 1978, initial projects began with installing original North Carolina artwork in patient rooms; an exhibition program; and performing arts events booksfor patients, visitors, and staff.  Employee specific programs including dance workshops, annual arts and crafts festival, an annual stage production, and weekly literary meetings.

Duke’s mission is to integrate the arts and humanities into the life of the Medical Center, bringing the healing power of the arts to people who are suffering and to those who care for them, including staff and students.

Shands Hospital, University of Florida, Gainsville, FL

The Arts In Medicine program (AIM) at the University of Florida, Gainesville, was co-founded by nurse-artist, Mary Rockwood Lane and physician-poet, John Graham-Pole. The AIM program was created in 1991 in response to perceived needs of caregivers to re-humanize medicine.  The first arts program began with community artists, carefully screened by Lane, to work with patients on a one on one basis at the bedside in the bone marrow transplant unit. 

The program was well-received by the entire hospital ultimate_creativity_for_siteand expanded to other units serving a broad spectrum of patients. The artist in residence (AIR) program has become a model to incorporate the arts into the mainstream of clinical practice. The purpose of the artist-in-residence was to integrate the arts into the care giving of patients as well as to educate staff and students into the new approach of caring.

According to Dr. Graham-Pole (co-founder), the AIM program brought creativity into his own life. He believes “the release of human creative expression among children and adults in various stages of pain and physical ravage is a unique tool to be used alongside the medicines and treatments that accompany any serious illness”.

Other noteworthy U.S. arts programs in healthcare are:

  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center Cultural Enrichment, Nashville, TN
  • Stanford University Medical Center Hospital and Clinics, Stanford, CA
  • Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University, Washington, DC
  • Hasbro Children’s Hospital, Providence, RI
  • The Creative Center: Arts for People with Cancer, New York, NY
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, MA 

How is the soul of your healthcare organization manifested?


(‘STILL pondering infinity’  Marti Hand, 2008)

To read about ‘STILL pondering infinity’ click here