NYC Health + Hospitals and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Launch Arts in Medicine Program

NYC Health + Hospitals and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund Launch Arts in Medicine Program

Nation’s largest public health system and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City awarded $1.5 million from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund to expand programs serving health care staff, patients, and communities in sites across the City

Expansion includes initiatives to use the arts as a resource to promote employee wellness and resilience and to combat compassion fatigue

(New York, NY ― February 27, 2019)  Joined by New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray and NYC Health + Hospitals leadership—the philanthropist Laurie M. Tisch announced today at a news conference a $1.5 million grant via the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to launch the public health system’s Arts in Medicine program. The program will introduce new initiatives benefiting staff and patients at hospitals, community health centers, and long-term care facilities, as well as support broader adoption of initiatives that have worked at a single site. The news conference was held at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.

The grant is provided through the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund’s Arts in Health initiative, which supports organizations using the arts to address health issues affecting New Yorkers, with particular attention to increasing access to care and addressing disparities in health outcomes. The three-year grant to NYC Health + Hospitals, which is the largest municipal health system in the country and serves approximately 1.1 million New Yorkers annually, will significantly expand the public health system’s arts programs.

Beyond serving patients, the Arts in Medicine program will create new initiatives aimed at staff as a means to reduce stress, support emotional health, and help address “compassion fatigue,” historically known as “physician burnout.”

“NYC Health + Hospitals is in the vanguard of hospital systems across the country using the arts as a tool for healing,” said Laurie Tisch, Founder and President of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund. “We know from decades of research that the arts have an important role to play in reducing stress and helping individuals in their healing process. We are pleased to be able to help increase access to these services to more patients, and also to the healthcare professionals who are so vital to the system. As first responders, doctors and health professionals are under enormous stress, and these programs are proven tools to support them in their work.” Ms. Tisch also serves as Vice Chairman of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Trustee and Past Chairman of the Whitney Museum of American Art.

“I am grateful for the additional resources and greater attention we are now able to give our caretakers and their patients. New York City’s health care providers are on the frontlines every day and we must support them in every way we can,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “Art is an important tool that can reduce stress and promote healing, and should be available to everyone. The Mayor’s Fund is grateful to Laurie Tisch and the Illumination Fund for their commitment to using art to support mental health.”

“Engaging in the arts makes for happier patients and less stressed staff, and we want our care community to benefit from a substantive and accessible Arts in Medicine program,” said Mitchell Katz, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of NYC Health + Hospitals. “We are enormously grateful to Laurie Tisch and the Illumination Fund for their generosity and for having the appreciation and foresight to encourage the arts as a tool for fostering wellness and making it a priority for our patients and staff.”

“The arts empower us, inspire us, and help support a healthier, healing environment.  Art can be complementary to the physical care we provide by helping improve one’s emotional well-being, reduce stress, and alleviate anxiety,” said William Hicks, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. “Art belongs in public and shared spaces, and it communicates our value of creative human expression. It demonstrates passion, skill, and diversity and is similarly reflected in our dedicated staff at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. We are grateful for the gifts of art on display such as ‘Ruth’s Dream’ in our south lobby, our sculptures, lithographs, and other mixed media that enriches our facility. This is a place where art meets medicine as we work to alleviate suffering and restore wellness.”

“Arts in Medicine is a fantastic example of innovation that’s possible when philanthropy, advocates, and government partner to develop solutions to some of our more complex public challenges—such as improving public health approaches and outcomes,” said Darren Bloch, Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships. “We are grateful for the support the Illumination Fund is bringing to the nation’s largest municipal hospital system, and the vision shared by Laurie M. Tisch and our partners at the Mayor’s Fund and Health + Hospitals.”

“The power of partnership is on full display today with the launch of Arts in Medicine,” said Toya Williford, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. “Patients and health care workers will benefit from art as a tool to promote healing, and to lower workplace stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Our longstanding partnership with the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund exemplifies the important role public-private partnerships play to increase access to care while improving health outcomes. We are incredibly thankful to Laurie Tisch for her unwavering commitment to supporting a shared healing process for our health care workers and the patients they serve.”

“Art and culture contribute to healthy, thriving communities across NYC, something that our colleagues at NYC Health + Hospitals understand and embrace,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. “We applaud the Mayor’s Fund and the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund for supporting this effort to integrate the arts into our health care system—connecting medical professionals, caregivers, and patients directly; encouraging dialogue and collaboration; and transforming situations better known for stress and anxiety into positive, creative experiences.”

“Art therapy is a valuable component of promoting patient well-being, especially in mental and behavioral health treatment,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried.“Thank you to Laurie M. Tish for helping Health + Hospitals continue to be a national leader in providing a comprehensive and diverse set of patient and staff supports and services, and this grant will significantly expand access to these programs.” 

The Arts in Medicine program will introduce new initiatives such as:

  • HHArt of Medicine, an art-observation initiative that guides clinicians through intensive art viewing designed to enhance focus, improve communication, and encourage active listening, which in turn improves their ability to serve patients;
  • SoulCollage, workshops that facilitate self-discovery through collage composition to help staff express and share their experiences and emotions; and
  • Communal Murals, collaborative projects of hospital artists in residence, staff, and community members to create stunning works of art inside and outside facilities.

“Studies conducted in 2007 by Repar and Patton demonstrated that arts programs can lower rates of tension, anger, depression, and fatigue—symptoms of burnout and compassion fatigue. We value our staff, and Arts in Medicine will help bring back the joy in work and improve outcomes for staff and ultimately the patients,” said Linh Dang, Senior Director of the Arts in Medicine Program at NYC Health + Hospitals. 

Additionally, patient-oriented programs that have taken place in single hospitals will be expanded to other hospitals and clinics. For example, Music & Memory engages patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and cognitive loss by creating personalized playlists with familiar songs for enhanced memory retrieval and cognitive functioning, among a variety of other positive health effects. The Lullaby Project, another example, partners pregnant women and new mothers with professional musicians to compose lullabies for their babies, ultimately reducing maternal anxiety and depression, aiding in child development, and strengthening the bond between parent and child.

“Employees throughout the system have taken the initiative to create extraordinary programs,” but they have happened in isolation,” said Dr. Katz.  “Expanding programs to new sites will leverage the engagement and enthusiasm and will enable staff to collaborate across our system and learn from each other.”

“Today, we are re-imagining the role of the arts in our health system to create active programming that will enrich our community,” said Dave A. Chokshi, MD, NYC Health + Hospitals Vice President and Chief Population Health Officer. “Arts in Medicine is about engaging patients, clinicians, caregivers, and staff in different types of healing connections. Visual arts, performing arts, theater, and literary arts help us tap into imagination, creativity, and expression as part of improving health.”

Physicians have reported a sense of renewed energy and focus as a direct result of engaging in the arts. Research on outcomes involving medical students who engaged in art observation training—reported on in the January 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology—found that observational skills were improved significantly.

“I was first exposed to art in medicine when my residency class participated in an interactive art observation session at the Detroit Institute of Arts,” said Eric Wei, MD,Vice President and Chief Quality Officer at NYC Health + Hospitals. “Even though we were looking at the same painting, we had different interpretations of what was going on. It helped me realize how this happens at the bedside and how important communication is to achieving a shared mental model.”

Although art observation programs have existed for medical students and physicians in training and often have taken place in museums, the new visual art observation program will take advantage of the health system’s extensive collection of more than 3,000 art works, which began with commissioned pieces through the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and grew to include some of America’s leading artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Keith Haring. The health system’s collection is the largest public art collection in New York City.

The creation of the Arts in Medicine program to address compassion fatigue among staff also fits with related programs at NYC Health + Hospitals. Helping Healers Heal is one such initiative launched by the public health system in April 2018. Following the model first adopted by Drs. Katz and Wei when they served together in the Los Angeles public health system, this peer-led employee wellness program offers emotional first aid to health care providers who are suffering from workplace stress or anxiety and may be at high risk of depression.

Arts and Medicine, at a glance

  • Initiatives for patients
    • Music & Memory®
    • The Lullaby Project
    • Visible Ink, a writing project to support patients battling cancer
  • Initiatives for staff
    • HHArt of Medicine
    • SoulCollage®
  • Initiatives for patients, staff, and the community
    • Communal Murals
    • Audio Art Tour
    • Rotating Art Exhibits
    • Live Concerts

Other initiatives are expected to be introduced over time.