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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wind of Change

I met Amy Cueva almost three years ago. I was presenting my first speech at a health care conference in Washington, DC. MY friend Ted Eytan, MD asked me to join his panel presenting a patient view in medical care. Another friend, Cindy Throop, kindly helped me with the power point, as I had never created one before. During my short speech I poured out my soul before a room containing more empty chairs than filled ones.

Amy cried that day.

She walked over and embraced me. Then she told me that she was working at the intersection of health and design. Over the years she kept in contact via Twitter and occasionally I would participate in a in a conference call with her and her team at MadPow. Recently, she asked me to attend her annual conference: Health Experience Design 2012 or #HXDconf as it was known on twitter. I would paint and speak.

This is the painting I created yesterday "Wind of Change." It was inspired by several speakers who presented in Grand Ballroom A.

Amy with the painting

Typically, when I paint at a conference I will either be in the back of the room by the exit door next to the camera crew or towards the front of the room by the stage. #HXDconf was not the typical conference.

Apparently, the hosting hotel had just installed new carpet and did not want me to paint at all. The MadPow team fought for a month for my inclusion. They reached a compromise by placing me on tile floor covered with protective plastic approximately 200 feet away from the conference space. I looked at the placement and said it would not work, as I would not be able to hear the speakers. The hotel staff strung cable along the hall to connect me to the audio feed.

That was the best they could do and I began to paint.

Amy started off the day with a strong welcome explaining her drive to create a better health experience for us all. She then made a statement that defined this painting: “Technology and design should be the wind at your back, not your face."

Amy Cueva

I then began painting Amy using the elongated form often reserved for depicting the divine. She stands firm with a determined face, the wind at her back and a banner in her hand depicting her quote about technology. In the background the sky roils with dark clouds driven by the winds of change. She stands tall in the middle of the path of technology. Her shadow looms long and exists beyond the page, for that which is done today shall repercussions for many tomorrows. 

Regina and Robyn

To her left is the next speaker Robyn O'Brien who told us about Allergykids and the Unhealthy Truth. Robyn was just a regular mom and food analyst until her child became allergic to certain foods. Now she is a righteous warrior in the battle against unhealthy foods containing pesticides and growth hormones. She is looking for other advocates who will join her team. In one hand she holds an apple representing the healthy food we need to eat. This apple also represents the knowledge that we must attain about what exactly has been done to our food supply. Her other hand reaches out to Amy, as Robyn would like to meet others also determined to create change.

Patient in the room

To Amy's right is Tim Kieschsnick whose speech was entitled Data are People too- Visualizing the new Health Care Reform Consumer. He focused on the outreach that Kaiser Permanente is doing to provide care for American's previously uninsured. He asked for a show of hands of the uninsured attendees.  He was pointing out that the uninsured in the room may be sitting next to you, or they may be you. I depicted Tim as the patient in the room. His back is to the viewer, his gown gapes. He is anonymous, except for the mirror in his hand that allows us a glimpse at the reality of the uninsured.

Alex Drane

To Tim's right stands Alex Drane, as sexy as her speech: Talk Health to me Baby. She pointed out that health care spends relatively no money in marketing itself to consumers, while tobacco and soda spend quite a bit. When health care does market itself, it is usually with un-sexy, vanilla, boilerplate imagery. So Alex stands provocatively within this painting baring some inner thigh, wearing paten leather boots that reach her kneecaps. In one hand she holds a plate with a single marshmallow, referencing the marshmallow experiment on self-restraint that she referenced in her speech. In the other hand, she holds a magnifying glass up towards the patient, representing all the magnifiers that are affecting the patient's health.   
To the far left of the painting I stand in my Little Miss a-Type personality Walking Gallery jacket. My hair whips behind me and my arms are upraised. I am asking you to join me. Become a paintbrush warrior. As Don Fluckinger described me on twitter, "preaching HIT fire and brimstone."  As my speech continues my volume increases and makes its way into ballroom B where some attendees hear enough to want to leave that session and come to mine. I end with a call to action: invite patients to conferences and thereby artists and poets as well. Embrace true disruption of the model of medicine that does not include the patient voice and occupy healthcare.

Todd Park

Finally to the far right, Todd Park marches and beats the HIT drum. His speech received a standing ovation: Unleashing The Power of Open Data and Innovation to Improve Health. I was told he jumped on the stage, he vibrated with energy and spoke of data liberation with the joy of a true believer. He then closed his speech with the story of his daughter's open-heart surgery.

That is the story of Wind of Change. And in case you ever wondered if God has a sense of humor, the wind of a cold Boston day blew at me throughout creating this entire composition. I was painting next to a building exit.  At one point the wind was so harsh that it broke the pneumatic hinge on the outer door. In addition to being very cold, I would have to hold canvas in place each time the door was opened or it would be blown off the easel.

The distance between us.
As the conference day ended, I continued painting far away from the milling crowd.  A few braves souls crossed to long expanse and met me at the easel and we spoke of art and design. Juhan Sonin was the most apoplectic in his dismay.  "This was a design conference," he said. "How could a design conference accept this poor placement of an artist by a windy exit." I commiserated with him and said, it is okay it reminds me how it feels to be a patient: alone and ostracized with the wind in my face. I paint beauty from tragedy and grow stronger through adversity.

I am buoyed, and not bowed, by the winds of change.
Wind of Change

1 comment:

  1. Regina-

    Your speech and presence during your session was by far the most moving of any speaker at Hxdconf. To say that I was moved would be an understatement.

    There are many players in healthcare who still fail to appreciate the powerful role that art can play within the hospital setting, the patient's journey, and the debate at large. There are many who do not even understand just what art IS. There are many who forget the real people and real––often tragic––stories behind patient charts and data.

    Yet I have no doubt that as you continue to go around the country as a paintbrush warrior, these individuals will come around and feel the impact of your message. It would be impossible for anyone with a heart not to feel both solemn and inspired by your stories, whether communicated through spoken word or brush strokes on the back of a jacket.

    Thank you for fighting the good fight. And I want to assure you that even if you had to be relegated to the end of the hall, the attendees of Hxdconf were receptive to your pain, beliefs, and mission.