UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine Program helps patients forget about pain for a while

James Geisler, a hip replacement patient at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital, listens contently as Kelseanne Breder plays guitar and sings for him as part of her job as an artist in residence with the Arts in Medicine Program. The ancient connection between art and medicine dates back hundreds of years. In fact, the two disciplines were once one and the same. While they are separate today, a growing number of medical centers across the country recognize the healing power of the arts, and University of Florida Health Shands Rehab Hospital is now among them.

A new UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine Program in its infancy at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital already is making a big difference with patients who are there recovering from major traumatic injuries. Sept. 16 marked the beginning of Rehabilitation Awareness Week by the National Rehabilitation Awareness Foundation.

Kelseanne Breder, a University of Florida graduate with degrees in psychology and theater arts, is the first artist-in-residence with the new UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine Program. She spends Saturday and Monday afternoons with patients, playing and singing music, dancing and engaging them in breathing and movement exercises.

During a recent visit with Breder, James Geisler, a hip replacement patient at the 40-bed, acute rehabilitation hospital in northwest Gainesville, shared a story about going to a Simon & Garfunkel concert in New York City’s Central Park in the early ‘70s. She responded by playing the popular Simon & Garfunkel tune “Cecilia.”

“That really took me back,” Geisler said. “You actually made me forget about the pain in my leg for a little while.”

Accounts like these make Lana Watson, M.H.S., O.T.R./L., smile. She’s the clinical coordinator of speech and recreational therapies at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital who spearheaded the effort to bring the program to the hospital.

“This has been a long-term goal of mine, and I am excited to see it moving forward,” Watson said. “I really think this is the beginning of something special.”

Watson collaborated with artists in the well-established program at UF Health Shands Hospital and with members of her team to bring the program to life at UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital. She thinks this is just the first step toward building a robust and effective program in the future.Bonnie Mobley suffered a stroke in August and arrived at the hospital a few weeks ago.

“When I walked in, I noticed a Bible flipped open on the table in front of Bonnie,” Breder said. “She was bright and expressive, and she maintained eye contact with me as she sang along.”

Watson said Breder has established an amazing bond with the patients, many of whom have suffered terrible accidents.

 “We want to connect with our patients emotionally, help them rebuild physically and facilitate a healing environment while they are in the hospital,” Watson said. “The Arts in Medicine Program will help us do that.”

About the Author

Nickie Doria's picture

Nickie Doria

Nickie Doria, A.P.R., joined the UF Health Communications team in 2010. She has 18 years of marketing and public relations experience. Currently, she serves as a marketing and public...Read More