If you’ve ever come to our clinic on a Monday or a Friday, you will be familiar with our Arts In Medicine program, which provides our patients and families with deeply engaging art projects that can transform their treatment experience. This week we bid a fond farewell to artist-in-residence Barbara Marco, a driving force behind the program. Barbara, who is moving to California, started doing this work in our division nine years ago, after first beginning in Pediatric Neurology.
Before she left however, we gathered with some of the remarkable people who made this extraordinary program possible and learned that it was enmeshed with the “humanism in medicine” and narrative medicine movements, both pioneering efforts with their roots at Columbia University Medical Center. One of these people is Dr. Arnold Gold, who practiced in the Pediatric Neurology department at Columbia for 57 years and founded The Arnold P. Gold Foundation with his wife, Dr. Sandra Gold, in 1988. They work “with healthcare professionals in training and in practice to instill a culture of respect, dignity and compassion for patients and professionals.”
However, when it came to the kids in his clinic, Dr. Gold felt like something was needed to help keep them calm and focused while they waited for their appointments. Enter Barbara, who brought two tables filled with art supplies and was soon an essential part of the clinic experience. Dr. Wilma Siegel, an oncologist and artist, was a catalyst and early funder of what came to be known as Wilma’s Studio. The program was also an extension of Dr. Rita Charon’s innovative Narrative Medicine program, which trains medical professionals in the use of narrative techniques that can lead to more effective and compassionate care.
After the success in neurology, the program expanded to our division, where patients and families spend long days receiving chemotherapy and other treatments. Barbara and her fellow artist, Nitza Danieli, have been essential parts of the clinic ever since. Barbara and Nitza’s ability to really connect with patients of all ages is amazing to watch. Children who may be feeling depressed or acting withdrawn since their diagnosis come out of their shells, making art of great power and beauty. Our doctors often stop by the art area as well, finding it a place to interact with patients on a different level and, if they have time, get in touch with their own creativity.
The program, now funded by Hope & Heroes thanks to a generous gift from the Alfano Family Foundation, will continue in Nitza’s able hands. We wish Barbara the best and will never forget the impact she has had on everyone who has stepped off the elevator on the seventh floor.
Pictured, left to right: Nitza Danieli, Dr. Wilma Siegel, Dr. Arnold Gold, Barbara Marco, Dr. Rita Charon, and Dr. Sandra Gold.
If you would like to make a donation in honor of Barbara Marco’s work, please go here.