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play a role in improving their skills as a physician, she says:
"It is designed not only to provide self-care for students, but
also to give them tools they can use with patients when they
begin their clinical practice."
The Connection between
Art and Healing
n a more global level, the
programs allow Dr. Lee to
reinforce her belief in art as a healing
"One of the reasons I'm so excited
about this collaboration is I feel we
don't take seriously enough how much
the arts and arts engagement can change people's lives. Just
in the short year I've been here, it's been striking to me that
several people have said to me that dancing saved their life,"
Dr. Lee says.
She notes that she has seen some encouraging signs that
a shift is occurring in an interest in arts in health care, pointing
to the development of the Center for Arts in Medicine at the
University of Florida and to a recent call by the National
Institutes of Health to fund the study of arts-based approaches
in palliative care as indications that "something is changing."
For Ritter, that interest is an exciting development. Art and
healing have a long history, but often they are not on the
radar of the general public, because they have not typically
been funded, Ritter says. "There have always been founda-
tions out there that have been more inclined to fund projects,
but certainly not enough," she adds, noting that financial
support for arts-in-healing programs seemed to have gone in
waves throughout the 20th century. A renewed interest in
support may be a result of the availability of more data, she
says, such as that of the American Dance Therapy
Association, which has data that support dance as a therapy
for people with autism, who have an eating disorder, or who
have experienced physical or emotional abuse or domestic
"I think it's been hard because we artists often work so
qualitatively, we haven't had quantitative data to show what
actually works," says Ritter. "We know it works, because we
can see it in our clients and our students and our patients, but
quantitative data is just starting to emerge. Hopefully, we'll
start to change public policy so as to increase awareness of
the funding needed to make these kinds of programs accessi-
ble to more people."
Uniting Artists and Scientists
n addition to the programs in conjunction with Mason
Gross, Dr. Lee has plans to apply for service and research
grants to provide and study arts-based programs in health,
and she is enthusiastic about the tremendous opportuni-
ties throughout the university to work collaboratively
on research and other programming.
The dance department has been particularly proac-
tive in working across disciplines and schools, Ritter
says. It has focused most specifically on health and well-
ness in terms of the department's own coursework, adding
sessions such as yoga and Polestar Pilates training, work cen-
tered around Parkinson's disease, and a master's in dance edu-
cation graduate program that is a joint program with Rutgers'
Graduate School of Education.
"We have a history of working with different organizations
to provide different kinds of specialized classes in movement
and the arts, such as being the host site for a dance therapy
for autism class sponsored by Very Special Arts New Jersey,"
adds Ritter.
The dance department has also worked with researchers at
the university, including reaching out to Dr. Tepper with
regard to his studies related to Parkinson's. In addition,
Mason Gross dance students are participating in science-
based studies on the physiological, emotional, and general
health impact of dance through a yearlong study by Shawn
M. Arent, PhD, associate professor in Rutgers' Department of
Exercise Science and Sport Studies, director of the Human
Performance Laboratory, and director of the Center for
Health and Human Performance in the Institute for Food,
Nutrition, and Health.
"I think what's really interesting for us is how to get scien-
tists and artists in the same room during these processes,"
Ritter says. "We can have people like Dr. Tepper and other
researchers observing what goes on in the studio, and then
making connections to what also goes on in the research lab;
that process could happen on many different levels, with dif-
ferent conditions."
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School also welcomes an
extension of its current initiatives, Dr. Lee says. She plans to
expand the SAF-sponsored wellness programs to include visu-
al arts as well. In the spring, Bobbie Ellis-Bianculli, owner and
director of the Soma Center in Highland Park, will provide a
workshop for medical students integrating movement, draw-
ing, and writing. "Hopefully, I'll be able to do more and more
with this," Dr. Lee says.
Robert Wood Johnson