Journeys with 1000 Heroes, Arts in Health Pioneer Publishes Memoir

Submitted by John Graham-Pole:

I’m an emeritus professor of pediatric oncology and palliative care from University of Florida (UF). I co-founded Shands Arts in Medicine with Mary Rockwood Lane in 1991, and UF’s Center for Arts Medicine with Jill Sonke and Rusti Brandman in 1995. I’m the author of “Illness and the Art of Creative Self-Expression” (New Harbinger Publ., Oakland, CA, 2000) and editor of “On Wings of Spirit” (Enhancement Books, Bloomingdale, IL, 2001), an anthology of poems by physicians.

My memoir, “Journeys with 1000 Heroes: A Child Oncologist’s Journey” has just been published by Wising up Press (

“John is a pioneer of pediatric compassionate care, and has always been a master of narrative medicine. In this memoir, he puts the latter set of skills on display, as he illuminates the journey that made the former possible. I would highly recommend this book to any caregiver.” And one from a former patient that strikes a different tone: “Finger-paints, Mr. Potato Head, play-doctor kits, mural-covered ceilings, a red clown nose, and mismatched socks…these memories flood back from my being treated for leukemia as an 18-month-old at Shands hospital in the mid-80’s. Despite my dire diagnosis, by God’s grace I remember only my whimsical friend who also happened to be my doctor. I owe him my health 31 years later. His story will inspire countless others in treating the whole patient with art and humor. It should be read by all, because it is one of a life well lived.”

– University of Florida (UF) emeritus Chairman of Pediatrics, Terry Flotte (now Dean of University of Massachusetts School of Medicine)

I Knew Him a Little, I Knew Him a Lot

“Art has power that flows beyond mere understanding.  It nourishes and sustains…indeed, some call it ‘food for the soul.’”

At For Love & Art’s genesis, I penned these words seemingly out of nowhere.  I speak it to people and gauge their reactions.  There’s an ancient and profound recognition here.  People are inspired and intuitively concur.

I am a hospice volunteer and practitioner of therapeutic art.

One of my hospice patients, “Sammy,” died last night.  I knew him a little, but I knew him a lot.  On our first meeting (for me, often awkward—so many small-talk visits before a rich relationship arises, from which intimate conversations spring), Sammy was bedridden for two weeks and clutched his bedcovers up around his chin. He seemed so very weak, distant, and frail…I thought he might pass at any moment.

I happened to have a Virtual Museum ArtBook with me and I asked him if he liked art.  He said, “sure.”  We went to The Met, digitally.

One after another, beautiful images from among the greatest artists in the world emerged: the majestic Matterhorn at dawn; a lush, green meadow graced by budding dogwoods at dusk; a young couple stealing a kiss in a rose garden, and so on.

It was the seventh or eighth image – a rustic painting of a snow-covered red cabin in the woods – during which the magic happened (image below).

Sammy exclaimed, “This reminds me of when I was a little boy and my parents let me visit my grandmother for a couple of weeks every winter in Western Pennsylvania. Boy, the snow was so high, it was taller than the top of my head!”

Sammy went on and on about these trips to Grandma’s house, how much fun he had in this winter wonderland, how scrumptiously she cooked and how very much he loved her.  Clearly, this woman was the great love of his life. He shared about her and their relationship so very wholly and generously, almost as if she were standing right beside him.

It was easy for me to listen to him without bias or interruption.  What an honor to witness someone profusely sharing such joy!  Sammy was in the presence of how very much his Grandmother had loved him, and how very much he loved her.  Herein lies the sweetness of life.

Before either of us knew it, two hours flew by, and then Sammy announced, “Mark, I have to go to the bathroom.”

I said, “Okay, Sammy, let me help you up.”  And he said, “No bother…”

…and he flung off the bedsheets, hopped out of bed (imagine my surprise), pranced to the bathroom to do his business, pranced back and bounced right back into bed – like he was a kid again.  I reckon he was…

I’ve been with Sammy for about 6 hours total…not a very long relationship, one would think.  And yet, he was a very dear friend, and his passing so saddens me.  You see, I knew him a little, yet I knew him a lot.  I’ve been here before – I’m a hospice volunteer, after all – once grief has come and gone, a sense of honor and respect and gratitude settles in:  Wasn’t I lucky to have known this great man, even if just for a little while?

Okay, a couple of things here:

1.  That conversation about the love of Sammy’s life wasn’t going to happen so quickly without the ‘cabin in the woods’ painting.  One’s experience while viewing artwork triggers very important conversations for people, and sharing these elevates the quality of life psychosocially, cognitively, spiritually, and physically for all participants.

2.  I walked out of that room in love with that man and he was in love with me.   I triumphed as a volunteer. Listening to that conversation without bias bonded us deeply, emotionally, in an instant.  One might say we were co-joined spiritually; not as “Mark” and “Sammy” but as Love and Gratitude, expressed.

3. That single conversation altered the context of Sammy’s last days. No longer was he worried about dying, having done life right, existential angst or fear of what’s to come. No, he was basking in the glow of a life well lived. He loved so many great people and they loved him. “Thank you, God, for this great ride!”

“Art has power that flows beyond mere understanding.  It nourishes and sustains…indeed, some call it food for the soul”…starting with our own.

For Love & Art is a nonprofit enterprise that partners with fine museums around the world to bring the Art Experience to people with limited mobility. We stimulate art appreciation while empowering caregivers to love people in creative and transformative ways.

View more here


Submitted by:
Mark Blair W. Lombard
For Love & Art

#ArtsinHealth #ArtsinHealthMonth #InternationalArtsinHealthMonth

NOAH Welcomes National and International Affiliate Members

The National Organization of Arts in Health (NOAH) is proud to invite members of any Regional or International Arts in Health Organization, or Regional, National or International Creative Arts Therapy Organization, to join NOAH as an affiliate member at a 20% discount rate on all membership categories.

In addition, NOAH is pleased to extend an invitation to members of International Arts and Health or Creative Arts Therapy organizations living outside of the United States to attend its 2017 Inaugural Conference at the NOAH membership rate. To register for the conference, please contact to receive an international registration code. A valid membership ID from your organization will need to be presented.

Letter from The President

Friends and Colleagues of Arts in Health,

It is with great enthusiasm that I join a highly experienced and professionally diverse Board of Directors in helping create the National Organization for Arts in Health (NOAH). The organization’s mission is to “serve and advance the field of Arts in Health” in America while envisioning a future where “Arts in Health is an integral part of health and wellbeing”.

The NOAH Board takes great pride and strength in remembering and celebrating the past 25+ years of sequential national service beginning with the Society of Healthcare Arts Administrators, leading to the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, and most recently, the Arts in Health Alliance. I join the Board in offering the friends, members and leaders of these organizations our sincere appreciation for supporting and driving initiatives that have defined the way the arts are contributing to the healthcare environment, patient experience, and health of communities today. NOAH recognizes this work at a critical time for the field and, in the eloquent words of Thomas Jefferson, embraces your collective “guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.”

In 2016, I had the rare opportunity to participate in a wide variety of conferences and events in the field of Art in Health around the nation, including the International Mobil Brain-Body Imaging and Neuroscience of Art, Innovation and Creativity, Chamber Music America, Arts to Research Universities (A2RU), Mayo Clinic Humanities, Organization for Human Brain Mapping, World Stroke Congress, Performing Arts Medicine Association, Golandsky Institute, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Exploring the Mind through Music at Rice University, American Music Therapy Association (AMTA), the Kennedy Center Arts Summit chaired by Yo-Yo Ma and Renee Fleming, and Houston Arts Partners Conferences, and have visited in focus groups on Arts in Health with a variety of organizations including the Eastman School of Music, Texas Tech University, A2RU, University of Texas, and accompanying the NOAH board, with the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Metro Health, Boston Arts Consortium for Health, Americans for the Arts and AMTA. These experiences, paired with the experiences of my NOAH Board member colleagues, which multiply the number of 2016 engagement points with the field exponentially, have confirmed to me that the field of Arts in Health is experiencing a renaissance, both in America and around the globe. More and more, people and institutions, and not only health care or health related institutions, are turning to the arts as a bridge to transcend boundaries, illuminate ideas, to discover, and explore more effective ways to live with, inspire, heal and care for each other.

I also found that many centers, schools or efforts in Arts in Health across the nation are actively seeking paths for growth, ways to overcome challenges, and are eager for communication with, and support and guidance from, a representative national organization. Even the larger centers with a greater level of institutional support, such as the one I work for, feel a need to leverage their work with others to help craft a broader more meaningful message, identify effective language that will communicate value across disciplines and industries, and an opportunity to share results, processes and benefits to the field through collective strength.

NOAH was formed to serve these needs and is currently communicating with and listening to the field through active participation in conferences, focus groups, regular board and committee meetings, individual field communications, review of existing programs and research, and our NOAH field survey (please fill out the field survey on the home page). We are actively considering collective solutions to a variety of the most important challenges communicated by the field, engaging in healthy, open and transparent dialogue and processes, adopting new approaches and technologies, all while remembering the basic thing that brings us all together, the thing we are passionately committed to, and agree upon as a common denominator – the potential of the arts to serve our fellow man in challenging times of life.

Furthermore, what we all know is that the various approaches, or entry points, to the Arts in Health, when administered effectively and purposefully coordinated, work beautifully in collaboration with each other, in synchrony amongst disciplines, while offering improved clinical, experiential, and holistic results. I think that is why the phrase “connecting, uniting and elevating” the field keeps coming up in NOAH discussions, as we review the individual progress being made, from the smallest to largest programs across the country.

The science and data in support of Arts in Health is there, and proves benefits from economic data, to the patient experience, from demonstrating brain plasticity, to the aesthetic environments impact on the patient and caregiver journey. We are showing this every day through our individual programs, but only collectively can we create an identity and a voice that leads to a future where “the Arts in Health is an integral part of health and wellbeing”. I hope we can count on you to join us in making this future a reality.

J. Todd Frazier
Director, Center for Performing Arts Medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital System;
President, National Organization for Arts in Health

July 2016 Newsletter

July 8, 2016
Dear Friends and Supporters of NOAH,

I hope everyone is enjoying a pleasant summer!
As you may recall, after our last update the board was planning a meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on June 16 before the Americans for the Arts conference. The strategic planning session was a great success. The board was pleased to be able to get to know one another better, and soon found that a positive working dynamic existed in person as it has in their numerous phone conferences. As you may remember from our introduction earlier this year, the board is made up of a wide variety of professionals, representing different facets of the arts in health field, and has found their areas of expertise and experience to be greatly complementary to one another.

Numerous discussions had taken place before this strategic planning session regarding the kind of culture that the board wanted to cultivate for NOAH, and what the guiding priorities of the organization would be. During discussions and work on key organizational documents such as vision, mission, and bylaws, these priorities were further defined. Some of these key priorities that have emerged include:

– Organizational transparency, both in finances and in communications with membership
– A guiding emphasis on providing useful services and benefits to members that will equip them to transform the field of arts in health
– Building community, both within and without the arts in health fields, by creating cross-field connections and encouraging the formation of regional arts in health associations
– Sharing resources by highlighting the scholarship and innovation of other arts in health practitioners and institutions, leading to a greater national awareness of field developments

We’ll be sharing highlights from this planning session in installments over the next several weeks, as we have much to share and are continuing to refine some of the work done in Cambridge. Here are some of the updates you’ll be receiving:

– NOAH’s vision and mission, and how the board arrived at decisions for these guiding statements
– Opportunities for organizational and individual membership, and how the board is working to add value and practical resources for members
– Organizational bylaws
– Our plans for an organizational website and logo
– NOAH’s plans for collaboration and community building, both within the field and with strategic partners in related disciplines
– Future opportunities for networking and connection, such as field meetings and conferences.

One update we would like to share with you immediately is the election of board officers.

It was voted thus:

Todd Frazier, President
Claire de Boer, Vice President
Barbara Steinhaus, Secretary
Annette Ridenour, Treasurer

In addition, the board voted to confirm my position as Administrator, as I have been in the position of Acting Administrator pending the confirmation of organizational roles for NOAH. I am pleased and grateful for the opportunity to continue working with this wonderful board and to assist in making resources available to all of you.

Katie White Swanson
Administrator, NOAH

The Executive Committee (left-right): Todd Frazier, Claire de Boer, Annette Ridenour, Barbara Steinhaus

The Board:
Back row: Todd Frazier, Naj Wikoff, Claire de Boer
Middle row: Katherine Trapanovski, Ari Albright, Annette Ridenour, Jackie Hamilton
Front row: Maria Lupo, Ferol Carytsas, Katie White Swanson (Administrator), Barbara Steinhaus

International Call for Arts in Health Presentations:
Arts in Health in South Wales announces its first Storytelling for Health Conference in June 2017 and has opened a call for contributions:

Our aims are to acknowledge and celebrate the importance and growth of storytelling for health and to understand and promote good practice. To this end we are seeking contributions within the following three conference strands:

Sharing good practice
Sharing and building the evidence
Embedding storytelling in health & sustainability

Areas addressed may include, but are not limited to:
Mental Health
Emotional Health
Physical Health

We would be delighted to hear about projects which facilitate communication and build shared language across different cultures (eg: patients and clinicians, artists and commissioners), projects which embed storytelling in training of health professionals, projects which have influenced policy, examples of project evaluations, examples of methodologies or projects which utilise different methodological approaches, case studies from any stage of the life of a project from origination to completion, inter-disciplinary evidence, and explorations of gaps in the existing research. Contributions may take the form of papers, talks, performances, presentations, films or workshops. We are seeking contributions that are innovative in their means of presentation and also welcome contributions in other formats. Please specify the format of your presentation in your abstract and include details of your anticipated running time and technical requirements. Please send abstracts of not more than 300 words to Prue Thimbleby by Monday 3rd November 2016. You should state clearly which of the three strands you would like your proposal to be considered for and should include details of anticipated running times and all technical requirements.