Arts program pairs medical students with people 65 and older
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Center for the Arts & Healthcare Research & Education (CAHRE) at the University of Florida, in collaboration with UF’s College of Medicine and the Harn Museum of Art, has been invited to participate in Vital Visionaries, a national program designed to improve future doctors’ attitudes toward people over 65 and to awaken in both groups awareness of their creative possibilities.
Funded by the National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health (NIA/NIH) and managed in partnership with the Society for the Arts in Healthcare (SAH), the program pairs medical students with community participants in a museum setting. The pairs meet at the museum for four sessions of interactive art experiences to improve understanding, change negative stereotypes, and demonstrate the value of the arts as a tool to enhance intergenerational communication and healthy aging. CAHRE Co-Director Rusti Brandman and Harn Director of Education Bonnie Bernau will facilitate the sessions, along with CAHRE Co-Director Jill Sonke-Henderson and Musician in Residence Cathy DeWitt.
The success of the pilot, conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, prompted the NIA/NIH to work with SAH. The SAH, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit corporation that promotes the integration of arts and healthcare, will help to recreate the program in four sites this year — St. Louis, New York, Chicago and Florida.
“The Harn is delighted to participate in this project, along with a few other leading museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis,” said Rebecca Nagy, director of the Harn Museum of Art. “We are excited about partnering with UF’s CAHRE Center to pursue research that will advance compassionate and effective medical care for seniors.”
Museums are key partners in Vital Visionaries because of their commitment to public education. The Harn’s Bernau works closely with community groups like Santa Fe Community
College’s Prime Time Institute, whose director Shirley Bloodworth helped recruit Vital Visionaries’ older participants. Lynn Romrell, associate dean of the College of Medicine, and Nina Stoyan-Rosenzweig, director of medical humanities at the college, helped recruit the medical students.
“As part of our mission, the Harn promotes the power of the arts to inspire and educate people and enrich their lives,” Bernau said.
UF’s first Vital Visionaries session will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 30. Students and community participants will be paired and take part in a cooperative poetry exercise based on the Harn exhibition, “Picturing the Times: Prints and Photographs from the New Deal Era.” The sessions will continue through April and include visual arts activities, movement and music. Medical students and community participants will be asked about their attitudes toward aging before and after the four sessions.
“The Vital Visionaries is one of those rare programs where everyone has a lot of fun while achieving important goals,” NIA Deputy Director Judith A. Salerno said in an NIA press release. “Too often medical students only interact with ill and frail older people, so they may develop a skewed perspective. A first step toward improving care for older people is to improve how medical students see them.”
- Meredith Jean Morton
- Cathy DeWitt, firstname.lastname@example.org, (352) 494-4731