An art program at the Pediatric Neurology & Pediatric Oncology/Hematology Clinics at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital

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About "Arts in Medicine Studio"

The "Arts in Medicine Studio" is an innovative art program for pediatric patients that brings creativity and enjoyment into the hospital clinic environment. Taking advantage of the very long waiting times in the outpatient clinics, artists come into the clinics to create art with children and their families.

The program began in 2004 in Columbia's Pediatric Neurology Clinic for low-income families, where Artists-in-Residence Barbara Marco and Linda Oifer set up two large art tables covered with many art supplies. The children in Neurology have a wide variety of mental and physical disabilities, and the many diverse materials allow each of them to have a unique creative experience.

The Arts in Medicine Studio is part of the “Arts in Medicine Project” of The Narrative Medicine Program. It was the innovation of Dr. Wilma Siegel, an artist and retired oncologist, and originally sponsored by Dr. Siegel, the Gold Foundation, and the Campus Community Committee of Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center.

The art program was so well received by patients, families and physicians, that with more private donations, the program was expanded to the Herbert Irving Pediatric and Adolescent Oncology/Hematology Clinic in 2007. Barbara Marco, Coordinator of the studio and Artist-in-Residence since 2004 recently relocated and Artist-in-Residence/Metropolitan Museum contractual educator Nitza Danieli Horner has taken over the program and continues her vision with patients, their siblings, and their families.

Patients, families and staff of the clinics comment on the palpable difference the artists’ presence makes. (See below.) A large donation was made in 2011 by the parents of a child who participated in the program over the course of his treatment, and who felt it should be available more days. The donation allowed the program to expand to another day a week.

Arts in Medicine At the ONC PED clinic is now funded by The Alfano Family Foundation, through Hope & Heroes, the 501(c)(3) charitable non-profit that supports pediatric oncology at Columbia. A recent increase in funding has made it possible for Arts in Medicine to work bedside with in-patient children at the Children’s Hospital. A new partnership with Hope and Heroes and The Metropolitan Museum of Art now makes museum programs available to pediatric oncology patients in our art program.

The Pediatric Neurology Clinic art program continues with generous funding from the Department of Neurology and Ambulatory Care Network Outreach and Marketing.

Comments about "Arts in Medicine Studio"

"Such a wonderful program that accommodates our patients of all ages and developmental levels. Kids often having such a good time we have to coax them into the visit! Parents so happy since they do not have an upset child to entertain while they wait for the visit. It is also clinically informative to observe what projects the child can create and often serves as a tool to get the child to warm up to the physician in the visit."
Danielle McBrian MD Asst. Clinical Professor of Neurology

"Yesterday, at our Pediatric clinic session a couple of the mothers who brought children to our clinic and had a long wait to be seen, both commented to me "that without those wonderful two women who do artwork with our children, we never could have lasted the session." I wanted to pass this paraphrased statement to you or anyone supporting this clinic, as it is a comment I hear at almost every clinic session. Since the arrival to our clinic of the fine artists Barbara Marco and Linda Zarchin Oifer, the atmosphere of our clinic has changed as if from night to day. Both the children and their parents we serve have been more than delighted with their presence. The children love to learn and create with these women as they await their turn to see the doctor. The mothers love to see their children entertained, and consequently, happy, during what may be quite a long wait. Many of the younger kids ask me "when can they come back to play with these nice ladies?" As we both know, nobody is indispensable in an operation, but in my opinion, these two persons come as close to that designation, as anybody involved in the Child Neurology clinic at Columbia."
M. Richard Koenigsberger MD, Attending Physician, Pediatric Neurology Clinic

"When my son needs to come to the oncology clinic, he is not happy. It has become a part of his life and he expects to come here twice a week. But when he has to come to the clinic on Thursdays—he smiles! He knows he will spend a good part of his time with the "arts and crafts" ladies! He so looks forward to seeing Nitza and Barbara! The respectful attention that they give him and the masterpieces that they create together take his mind off all the atrocities he must endure. For the time he is with them, he is an artist! This art program makes the unbearable bearable. It makes coming to the clinic fun. These women are a gift for these children. They all run to the tables—many pushing IV poles in front of them. Nitza and Barbara are very special people with huge hearts and wonderful spirits. I cannot thank them enough for what they have given my son (AND ME!) during this arduous journey."
Many Thanks and much love. Kim

"Wilma's Studio is one of the most popular programs in the Columbia University Pediatric Oncology Clinic as evidenced by the large crowds of children who participate each week. They are fully engaged in their projects for long periods of time and the smiles that emanate from the group when they share the projects is remarkable and provides an important therapeutic dimension to their day in the clinic receiving medical treatment."
Dr. Steven Sands, Psychologist , Pediatric Oncology Clinic

"I'd love to talk to you about this wonderful program, my son enjoys coming, also my daughter too. At the beginning it was very hard for my kids and myself, but this program was a balm in the middle of my sadness and difficult time, not only the program, but the wonderful ladies who make these kids smile and their parents too. Now I see my life and my kids life different, because my son two years ago had a bone marrow transplant. He is cured and he is doing great! Thanks to God and part of your program, who made our long hours waiting for doctors and treatment more easy, and pleasant. Glory to God! For your program, and for the ladies who make the time shorter and pleasant, seeing my son and daughter smile. When Matthew smile when he received the chemo was the best prize for myself and my husband. You guys bring happiness and hope to these kids! Thank you! Always! From the bottom of my heart!"

"I am a big fan of this program. The children truly enjoy the art and crafts that the artists bring to the clinic. The project materials are colorful and varied so that the kids really are free and creative. The artists inspire the kid's creativity. All of "my kids" have a lot of fun with the activities, look forward to them, and are very much engaged in the activity. I even enjoy spending time with the kids doing projects with them---in the non- threatening environment of the art table I get to enjoy the kids on a different level!! I think the program is great."
Cathy Mazzelara, Pediatric Oncology Nurse, Heme/Onc/BMT center

"I am a Hematology PNP on the Herbert Irving 7th Floor Pediatric Heme/Onc/BMT center. Our patients have been the fortunate recipients of the Narrative Medicine's Arts Program on Thursdays. Every Thursday Barbara Marco and her team share inspiration, balance, tranquility and hope thru their art program with our patients, their siblings and their parents. Thank you for your team's support and care for IP7. Many smiles."
Maureen Licursi

"I can't believe this is our last week! I am so sad. I have so loved this whole experience and have really learned so much. There are so many lessons that I have learned over the past few weeks that I will take with me throughout my life and my medical career. I have learned to almost give my whole self to my interactions with people and my patients. Even though it can be hard at times to put everything else out of your mind, I really have to be in the moment with people. I have also got a very interesting view point of what it is like to sit in the waiting room and wait for the doctors all day and see the types of interactions that happen between families. I imagine that it is so easy just to see the child as a patient and label them for what is wrong medically, without thinking about their interactions with their 5 brothers everyday and how the mom has to balance the whole family along with having a child that is sick. There is so much more to these kids than a medical chart and it is our job as physicians to see past a diagnosis and see the kids for who they are and really understand how we can make them better. Working with these kids as really taught me to be in the moment and enjoy the process without having a goal in mind or an end product that we are working towards. All too often we are driven by what comes next, the next class, the next exam, the next application process and next step in life- and it is so easy to lose yourself and your relationships to other people but I have learned too you can grow so much and get so much more out of your experiences by enjoying the moment and really committing to the whole process. I just want to thank you so much for the opportunity to work with you and these amazing kids and for sharing your stories and your books with us. I didn't really know much about art and medicine and I am so glad I was exposed to it now because I can really see how it is helping these children every week- and not only those with medical problems- but the siblings and the parents as well. I have loved every minute of it.
Kristal Larson, Columbia Medical Student

"For many years I have had the pleasure of seeing first hand the impact of the Wilma's Studio Art Program at Tuesday's pediatric neurology clinic. My patients, who have been waiting to see me, need to literally be pulled away from Barbara and their projects and look forward to returning at the end of their visits as their family members gather their appointments. Children of all ages and level of functioning enjoy participating. This program has been vital to the atmosphere here at pediatric neurology and to the care of our patients. I am truly grateful that my patients are able to experience the joy and pride of making such beautiful creations in an otherwise not so calm and peaceful waiting room environment."
Karen McKearney, Nurse Practitioner

Donations for Wilma's Studio

The Arts in Medicine Program is funded entirely by private donation and we are grateful to all our donors:

  • The Alfano Family Foundation
  • Dr. Wilma Bulkin Siegel and Mr. Jessie Siegel
  • Anonymous
  • Arnold P. Gold Foundation for Humanism in Medicine
  • Cloe Foundation/Jesse Forst
  • The Coles Family Foundation
  • Roz and Robert Perlmutter/Pearl Paint
  • Barry and Sally Mandel
  • Ginny Dawes

Help us reach more children.
Make a donation to our program by writing a check to "Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York" and a note on the memo line "Arts-in-Medicine Project" and mail to:

Caroline Hastings
Executive Director of Development
Office of Development
Columbia University Medical Center
516 West 168th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, New York 10032
Office: (212) 304-6418