Health Arts Network at Duke

The Health Arts Network at Duke (HAND)! Well I spent a couple of days with Olivia Woodford, Betty Haskin, Sam Morrison, Grey Brown, Jessica Blaustein and performers of the HAND team at Duke University Medical Centre and was extremely impressed with the extent of their programs, given as with all arts programs, they manage to achieve so much on a limited budget. Betty took me on a tour of the hospital, which I must say is ENORMOUS (924 acute beds/19 psych beds and planning to build more!) The architecture of the place is really interesting. Given that the original hospital building I visited was built in 1925, the rest of the development has been very well designed and though the buildings are all different, they seem to complement each other. The site is huge, in fact it's like a self contained city and encompasses not only the acute hospital but two large outpatients clinics, a big paediatric unit and clinics, plus the university schools of medicine, nursing etc. Needless to say I got more exercise in two days, than if I'd walked around the MCG ten times!
From the moment you enter the huge entry atrium (including a waterfall), the arts surround you, from the beautiful grand piano in the foyer (that anyone is welcome to play, in addition to the scheduled musicians) to the installations that include sculptures, textiles and paintings. Betty took me to the "Touchable Gallery", which has an amazing variety of exhibits that visitors are encouraged to touch (hence the name of the gallery!) Most of the artwork is commissioned and therefore meets the "healing" mission of the HAND program. Throughout the hospital there is an extraordinary amount of visual art, some of which is in semi permanent installations, others are part of focused thematic exhibitions. Sam took me on a tour of the exhibits and told me about how they are developing an electronic database for the collection..........he also dropped me off at the Chapel for a 1/2 hour guided meditation, then off to look at the "Martin Luther King Jnr." exhibit. Sam sure know his way around the place (thank goodness or I would have been lost a million times). There is an amazing collection of children's art that covers the walls along the hallways that lead to the paediatric units. The thing I found the most impressive about the visual art displays, was not just that all of the work was original, but that it was well framed, well hung and well lit! A far cry from the recycled old impressionist prints we often see hanging crookedly on walls in big hospitals! I was also able to walk along with Steven, one of the performance artists as he walked from patient room to room playing the guitar and singing........a terrific initiative and the patients really got into his performance, some singing along, some clapping or just watching him intently as he played. HAND has quite an extensive performing arts program and Jessica gave me a great overview of the performances they have planned for the courtyard space over the summer.

The literary arts program is also inspiring. I spent time with Grey Brown who conducted a journalling session in the Psychiatric Unit which I was very lucky to be a part of. The impact of this 90 minute session on the patients was extraordinary. They created poems, reflections and prose during the session that I was fortunate they were happy to read aloud at the end. It was extremely moving and I am grateful they allowed me to participate.
I saw so much in my two days at Duke and even managed an unscheduled visit to Joanna Parker at the Bereavement Department. Thanks to Florence Nash (who I met at the Literary Roundtable- where reading aloud is celebrated and practiced), I also got to meet Carl Weisner the Director of the Duke School of Divinity, which was a nice way to finish my placement as he and I had a long discussion about the impact of spirituality on health and the how we do things in Palliative Care in Australia around holistic care, which was great.........I finished off talking funding with Olivia and I must say this is the ongoing constant for us all.......getting the dollars and getting as much as we can for the amount of dollars we have!

So, that's it from North Carolina, I had a wonderful stay, saw heaps of interesting history and got a glimpse into the future. Ate my first "Buffalo wings" (which I really should have eaten in Buffalo) and my first "crab cakes", finally found out what "grits" are (though I didn't try them) and met lots of friendly southern folks, including Elisha who worked at the hotel. A BIG thanks to Now off to Florida.

No comments: