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The Arts in Medicine

Circle Of Care, a WHYY original documentary and series of short segments, visits area hospitals, rehabilitation centers and adult residential communities to intimately witness the process of expressing and communicating through music, dance, painting, theater and poetry.  Here are those remarkable stories:

Videos require Quicktime

Dance and Disability
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At the HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy, dance therapist Rachel Morales helps students use dance and movement to communicate. Children come alive and vibrant in dance class, working muscles, relieving stress and doing things that other children might do. Through dance performance, doctors find that they can better understand their patients both physically and emotionally, and see the whole person rather than just the disability.

Music and Pain Management
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Paul Nolan, faculty in music therapy at Hahnemann Creative Arts in Therapy Program at the Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions and music therapist at Hahnemann University Hospital, explains how patients use musical improvisation to communicate their experiences with pain, and sometimes lessen the perception of pain. Paul works with A. Bruce Gregory, Jr., a patient who suffers from severe pain caused by sickle cell anemia. Bruce has participated in music therapy as an inpatient in the hospital, and now uses music to manage his pain by always carrying a kalimba and playing it whenever possible.

Theater and Language
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Aaron Deede was in a car accident five years ago, which left him paralyzed from the waist down and cognitively impaired. He had difficultly speaking and was referred to the theater arts class at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital. Now, Aaron speaks clearly and communicates even better on stage. Aaron’s mother, Ann Phillips, and Mari Doran, Director of Speech and Language at Magee, explain how theater and creative expression have helped Aaron regain his communication skills.

Music and Dementia
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For more than 15 years, the staff of Cathedral Village has been using music to aid in communication and to recall memories for the pleasure and health of residents with dementia. The activities staff and music therapist Lorna “The Music Lady” Glassman engage the residents in physical as well as mental exercise, as Lorna connects them to joyful memories through songs from their past. Watch as they sing, dance and use handheld instruments to play along with the music.

Art and the Medical Student
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LaToya Floyd is a third year medical student at Drexel University College of Medicine who has completed the Medical Humanities Scholars Certificate Program and has taken other Humanities and Arts classes offered by the Division of Medical Humanities to medical students. In the process, she developed an interest in the use of arts as a tool for better communication in her relationships with patients. Although on a crushing schedule that keeps her in the hospital from 5 a.m. to after 6 p.m., and then home to study, Floyd is always looking for ways to introduce art into the lives of patients.

Music and Language
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Music has been used over the past seven years to teach Noah Kinsley, who has Klinefelter’s disease and speech and language delays, to communicate. Dena Condron, a music therapist at the Community Conservatory in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and of the Kardon Institute for Arts Therapy, has been working with Noah since he was 2 years old, and has been successful at getting him to communicate using songs and silly sounds. We see the relationship between Dena and Noah, and hear from Noah’s mother, Joan, how music has helped Noah develop language skills.

The Team Approach
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This story looks at treating patients with eating disorders through a team approach that includes an art therapist. The team practices at the Belmont Center for Comprehensive Treatment of the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network of the Jefferson Health System. Each week, the art therapist presents a patient’s artwork at a team meeting with psychiatrists, social workers, therapists and dieticians. As a team, they discuss what direction to take with the treatment of the patient by using the information derived from the art. Many patients who are unable to communicate their feelings verbally respond extremely well to therapy using art as a means of expression.

Art and Cancer
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Creating art can help cancer patients understand their disease and feelings, and communicate them to doctors and caregivers. Patients participating in the Open Studio art program at The Wellness Community of Philadelphia tell us how art has informed and empowered them to advocate for their care and to increase their quality of life.

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Robin Frankrich, vice president of St. Joseph’s Manor of the Holy Redeemer Health System, wrote a letter to the caregiving staff in the voice of her mother when her mother was admitted into the Alzheimer’s Unit. The letter helped the staff understand her mother’s likes and dislikes, interests and schedule. Robin’s letter was so popular that St. Joseph’s Manor developed a program to connect high school students with residents to write their stories into a book made available to healthcare professionals.

Writing, Poetry and Doctors
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Dr. Victor Bressler has been organizing a retreat to introduce caregivers to the power of writing for the past 15 years. This year at the Atlantic City Convention Center, medical residents, doctors, patients, writers and artists attended the conference hosted by Atlanticare, which focused on empathy in the healthcare experience. Doctors and poets presented examples of their work, and spoke about how journaling and writing can help to connect the human and the scientific elements of healthcare. This story follows medical students through the conference, tracking their reactions to the poetry and writings of working doctors, as well as the writing process.