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Friday, August 30, 2013

Youth for Understanding needs “Welcome families!”

When I fly, and I fly often, I usually read a book or work on my writing.  But on my flight to Iowa, I met Pamela Van de Walle of Silver Spring, MD who works for an international exchange student organization named Youth for Understanding USA.  We spoke a great deal about her life and I hope to write more about her in a future post.  (I am sure she will join the Walking Gallery one day!) 

I am writing about her mission here because one of you who read this post may be able to help. If you have a spare room and the willingness to host an international student on a long or short-term basis please contact Youth for Understanding USA ASAP.  Or if you are unable maybe you know someone who can help!  I cannot host due to my frequent travel schedule, but I offered to help spread the word.  Please help these children find homes before it is too late for them to be placed.

Pamela told me about the dire need of her organization to place 80 students in the coming days with host families. Dead line for families to apply is Sept 3rd! 

You can help!!!

According to Pamela:

“Each year, Youth for Understanding USA (YFU) - one of the world’s oldest, largest and most respected intercultural exchange organizations - sponsors 500 American teens to study abroad, and welcomes 2000 international teenagers to the U.S. to participate in intercultural exchange. This is their last week to invite families to apply to welcome one of these carefully selected foreign exchange students for the fall semester. The benefits of hosting a YFU student are as numerous and varied as the families who embrace this life-altering experience.

Would you consider hosting or serving as a welcome family for one of these students? The deadline is September 3 (Yes, Labor Day!)  to have an arrival host family and school enrollment for each student.

This week, we are accepting applications for Welcome Families.  Welcome Families host 6-12 weeks, helping the students enroll in classes, get engaged in after school activities, and culturally acclimate while YFU screens and prepares their permanent host family.  It is a great way to share some uniquely American traditions, like football season, Halloween, backyard barbeques, and visits to grandma and grandpa - everyday ordinary activities are new and exciting to our students! At YFU, our host families come in all shapes and sizes.

 By opening your home and heart to a student from overseas, you and your family will gain a new global perspective, many memories, and - quite possibly - a new family member for life!

Interested or know someone who’d make a great host family? Apply at or call 800.872.0200 to speak directly with your local field director.

With your support, we hope to further our mission of advancing intercultural understanding, mutual respect and social responsibility through educational exchanges for youth, families and communities."


Erin Helland
National Marketing Director
Marketing, Communications & Development
Youth For Understanding USA
Telephone: 240.235.2102 x5701
Toll Free: 800.424.3691
 Fax: 240.235.2104

Pamela Van de Walle
Director of Human Resources
Human Resources
Youth For Understanding USA
Telephone: 240.235.2392
Toll Free: 800.424.3691
Fax: 240.235.2198

Margie Eulner Ott
Director, U.S. Programs
US Programs
Youth For Understanding USA
Telephone: 240.235.2173
Toll Free: 800.424.3691
Fax: 240.235.2104

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Landscape of a Life

This weekend I painted Donna Cryer’s jacket in a park filled with children.  I was running a booth at a local fair and representing Christ Lutheran Church, my art and the wonder of playing with Legos.  Our booth was a very different type of booth from the others in the park.  Most booths were operated by local organizations as fundraisers.  The Lions made popcorn, the Cub Scouts made French fries, and so on.   Each booth team was working so very hard on fundraising that they had little time to explain their mission or talk to potential new members.  When I registered our booth as a non-profit, I was quickly asked, “What are you selling as your fundraiser?”  I responded, ”Oh, we aren’t focused on fundraising, we just want to let the kids to be able to play a free game and learn about activities at Church.”  

Yep, we were rather odd.
Painting in the booth

I explained Donna’s story to many children as I taught them how to build structurally sound Lego towers.  The children looked at the jacket, which appeared to be a landscape and looked at a picture of the human liver that I was referencing while painting.  “Why the liver?” they asked.  I explained I was painting the life story of Donna Cryer and she had a liver transplant 20 years ago and that experience has affected her entire life path.

This is Donna’s jacket: “The Landscape of a Life.”

"The Landscape of a Life" a jacket for Donna Cryer

I saw Donna Cryer at health events in DC for the past 4 years.  Her husband and business partner Dennis Cryer, MD often accompanied her to such events.  They seemed to dance within the crowd, gentling circling the conversations and always returning to each other.  They represent CryerHealth a consultancy with a mission to improve communication of doctors and patients.

You cannot help but notice Donna in a room.  She is beautiful.  Her face shines with warmth and her eyes sparkle with intellect.  She always wears the most becoming dresses and suits.  She looks the consummate healthy professional.  You would never know how much Donna has suffered in her life.

Donna is a 20-year liver transplant survivor with activeCrohn’s disease.  She is well aware if the challenge of chronic disease management.  She has coupled this intimate health experience with a law degree and is an amazing advocate for other patients. 

Within this painting I represent her love of the law with a scales of justice that doubles as a children’s toy.  The weights and measures trays are replaced with tire swings and happy children. 

The weights and measures

Donna as a child drives by in a sporty red pedal car with a vanity plate: ”LIVRLDY.” She likes to drive health care discussions and often does it through her own determination. 


As I explained the wonder that is Donna, I was showing a crowd of girls how to build their Lego towers.  These young ladies had never had much exposure to building technique.  Many of the girls just kept stacking block upon block and would watch their towers fall as the game began.  I asked the crowd, “Do you know about bricking?  Here, place this brick on top of the two other bricks at a point of connection.  See how strong your wall is when you build it this way?”  The girls smiled up at me and quickly built much stronger walls and towers.

The girls building

Bricking is a great metaphor for the work Donna does. She connects people and organizations helping them build strong foundations in patient advocacy.  She helps them on a personal level, and much like our little booth in the park, Donna well knows sometimes you must focus on education and advocacy over fundraising.

I salute you Donna for your bravery, perseverance and dedication to helping patients throughout the landscape of care.   

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lab Power

I love Google image search.  I must admit when I research someone I begin with pictures.  Pictures can tell you so much about a person.  I thoroughly enjoyed researching Lisa Donnarumma as the picture that I saw again and again was of a dog.  A particular type of dog seems to be associated with Lisa.  Lisa likes labs.  She enjoys their spirit and exuberance.  They are not very good at sitting still and have a little trouble doing exactly what they are told (like many e-patients).  

Lisa loved her own lab Caya and wanted the world to see her smart special friend.  She enrolled Caya in an agility trial with the New England Community of Canine Agility in 2008.  As they waited Lisa realized Caya might be the only lab in a sea of Border Collies.  As Caya barked within a crowd of obedient dogs, Lisa wondered if they could quietly slip away.  At that moment their names were called. 

With great trepidation Lisa walked Caya toward the course as the crowd of hundreds watched their progress.  Four times Lisa said Caya’s release word “Okay,” yet Caya did not move. The tittering crowd was filling with outright laughter. Lisa felt like she was going to faint.  At that moment a voice rang out saying “Lab Power!” Lisa was so glad someone understood!  She said to Caya “Simon Says OKaaayyyy!”  Caya quickly completed the course and they walked right over to the man yelling “Lab Power!”

And so this painting has a name:"Lab Power."

"Lab Power" a jacket for Lisa Donnarumma

That yelling man was Rich Dennison.  Lisa soon met his beautiful yellow Labrador Gabby.  Rich and Lisa became friends.  Rich was one of those beautiful people.  He was positive and supportive to Lisa and Caya, new to this course; but he shouted his support of the other teams.  He always had a good word for his dogs regardless of how well they completed the course.

Lisa always looked forward to spending time with Rich on the weekends.  Her weekday world focusing on healthcare policy would find respite in these breaks spent with such an unfaltering positive person.  So that was the life of Lisa and her friend Rich until three years ago.

Rich came to a meet looking very sad.  He had just found out he had pancreatic cancer.  He was sad because he might have to stop participating in agility trials.  Rich’s friends surrounded him with hugs and tears.  Lisa, who worked in healthcare, was well aware that pancreatic cancer is often called a “kill cancer.”  She knew Rich could leave them within mere weeks.

But to the surprise of many Rich rallied!  He enrolled in several clinical trials whist running agility courses and undergoing treatment.  Rich credited his extended life in part to his work with the dogs.  His positivity coupled with treatment seemed to beating the odds.  His novel approach at fighting cancer succeeded for three years.

In March 2013, Rich could no longer participate in clinical trials.  He was failing rapidly.  He looked frail and sad.  He wanted his dog Gabby to get a chance to compete and finish her lifetime achievement award.  Rich’s friends stepped forward and ran Gabby in his stead.

A paw to hold

Then the entire New England Agility Community step forward to help.  They created purple bracelets to wear in support of those living with pancreatic cancer.  Lisa bought two one for herself and one for Captain Jack her young black lab.  They wear those bands within this painting.  Rich was so honored and he continued to attend and watch his dogs run until summer 2013.  Then Rich’s family informed the agility community that Rich had entered hospice.  He would not be coming back. 

That is when the New England Agility Community created the “The Spirit of Agility Award” in honor of Rich Dennison.  The money raised by the sale of the purple bracelets will fund this award and support cancer research. The first of what will be an annual award was presented to Rich Dennison at the New England Agility Team trial meet on May 18th, 2013.

On June 2, 2013 Rich died.

Some have said he lost his battle cancer.  I say that statement is wrong. 

Agility Training

I painted Lisa’s jacket depicting the trials of Rich Dennison.  I painted him with his beloved lab Gabby upon a hill of medicine.  I painted Captain Jack racing through weave poles that are test tubes in a lab.  You see Rich was one of those wonderful people who dedicated the end of his life to research of a terminal disease.  He went through trial after agonizing trial.  These trials had their u-turns, their ups and downs and time was of the essence.  All the while he worked with his dogs and no matter how they did he praised the result with a smile and said “Awesome job!” 

No, Rich did not lose a battle.  He finished his course and has been called home.  We are left to say, “Awesome job, Rich, awesome job.” 

"Lab Power" a jacket for Lisa Donnarumma

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Return Flight

When I paint about members of the Walking Gallery, I learn such amazing things.  I see blog posts written before twitter was even born.  I read books that describe tragedy and learn about rare and often fatal medical conditions.  I delve into Facebook pictures and twitter comments of yesteryear.  All this I do, in an attempt to walk within the story so I can depict the soul.

My challenge in creation is the quiet ones, the modest ones.  The one that only exist as a mention in a pdf or a chair in a committee, their deeper story is as hard to find as Hansel’s fateful crumbs.

This is the jacket painting of Karin Jay.  It is entitled “Return Flight.” 

"Return Flight" a jacket for Karin Jay

In this painting, Karin stands as a girl throwing paper airplanes in the air.   These airplanes are the colors and shapes of The Joint Commission logo where Karin worked for 23 years.   They circle around a Planetree.  This is the tree under which Hippocrates would lecture and is the symbol of the organization for which she currently works.   

"Return Flight" a jacket for Karin Jay

Upon the paper airplanes ride patients.  The patient in her hand is a new mother and receives help from the Infant Welfare Society of Chicago.  The patients to her right are her parents who have survived cancer and heart disease and her best friend who survived cancer as well.

Friends and Parents

Karin knows each day the work she does helps patients just like her friends and family.  Karin taught me quite a bit in researching her life.  Although she is not yet using Facebook and twitter, Karen does have a profile on LinkedIn.  So to reach out to folks like Karin who are rather quiet in the world of social media, I built a LinkedIn group entitled The Walking Gallery of Healthcare.

I hope to see you there to welcome Karin into the family. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Silent No More

I was honored to paint a jacket for fellow widow Alice Mwongera.  You can find her on twitter as @voice_patient or on Facebook.  She decided to speak out and try to change the world.

"Silent No More"a jacket for Alice Mwongera

Alice lives in Nairobi Kenya and a few years ago her husbandwas very ill.  His kidneys were failing and in desperate need of dialysis treatment. They went to the public hospital. Their private insurance was depleted due to her husband’s long illness and there were no other choices.  They waited for six hours in the busy waiting room.

In that room they waited, knowing each minute the condition worsened.  In that room a marriage and a life ended.  Alice’s husband died without receiving appropriate care.   She went home a new widow to care for her young daughters. 

Soon tragedy struck again.  Six months after her husband’s death Alice’s brother Morris Moses developed a bad cold and began to have trouble breathing.  They could not afford the payments a private hospital would require so Alice and her brother went back to the public hospital in despair.  He needed ICU care and his subsequent treatment was substandard.  Morris slipped into a coma. When Alice asked about treatment plans and diagnosis the staff decided to dump Morris in the standard ward.  He died 20 days later, having wasted away.  His diagnosis was never determined.

Alice decided to a very brave thing.  She quit her human resources job and began to fight for the right of all patients.  She realized in her country, like many others, the healthcare system is broken.  She has vowed to be silent no more.

"Silent No More"a jacket for Alice Mwongera

I painted her at the beginning of her struggle.  Here in the chaos of the waiting room she holds her husband in her arms as her brother leans upon her shoulder.  The staff moves busily by not hearing her calls for help.

Alice has a small organization called the Morris MosesFoundation, but she counsels other activists to do something to change things.  Do not worry about the money or wait for funding; focus on action and spread the word.   

I think Alice and I have much more in common than just being widows.  We may be a world apart but I agree to enact system change we must speak out.  Nothing will stop us.

Thank you Alice for being our first Kenyan member of the Walking Gallery.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Walking Gallery Year Three: June 5, 2013- June 16, 2014

This is the third year of the Walking Gallery of Healthcare.  We now number 296 members walking around the world with patient story Paintings on our backs.  

This "walking wall" is changing minds and opening hearts.  They are attending medical conferences where often there isn’t a patient speaker on the dais or in the audience.   They are providing a patient voice, and by doing so, are changing the conversation.

An artist or artists will interview medical professionals and lay individuals to form a patient centric narrative. The artist will then create representational imagery and paint that picture story upon the business jacket of the provider of the narrative account. The provider of the patient story aka “Walker” will wear the jacket to medical conferences and events in order to disseminate the patient story to a large group of policy minded attendees and to represent the individual patient voice in venues where they are underrepresented. Further, both artist and Walker will support the spread of the story and image via social media.

As of July 2014 , 296 unique Walkers have joined the Gallery wearing 328 jackets.  The Gallery has representatives on five continents, but the majority of Walkers reside in the US. One artist creates the majority of the art, but new artists are joining the movement.  The Gallery is promoted heavily on twitter, facebook and personal blogs.   Its widening appeal within the health conference community is creating a new space for patients at such events.

Year Three

328."Staying on the Path" a jacket for Tom Krohn

327. "Grapefruit" a jacket for Angela Radcliffe

326. "Reaching the 1/3" a jacket for Susan Cantrell

325."Questions" a jacket for Harlan Krumholz

324. "The Depth of Understanding" a jacket for Fred Masoudi

323. "Question, Measure, Personalize" a jacket for John Spertus

322. "Blended Hearts" a jacket for Melissa Ariate Jarvis

321."Superheroes" a jacket for Jane Englebright

320. "Hospitality" a jacket for Richard Corder

319.  "In Need of Traction on the Slippery Slope" a jacket for Mary Beth Navarra-Sirio

318. "Connected" a jacket for Todd Rowland

317. "Open Minds" a jacket for Amy Fellows

316.  "Shared Decision Makers" a jacket for Marilyn Mann

315. "Quantified Truth" a jacket for Rajiv Mehta

314. "UPP" a jacket for Melissa Stewart

313.  "Whole Cloth" a jacket designed and painted by Courtney Mazza and Regina Holliday for Christine Bienvenu. 

312.  "Six Until Me" a jacket for Kerri Sparling

311."The Hats we Wear" a jacket for Danny van Leeuwen 

310."Wounded Healer" a jacket for Susan Eller

309. "We Got a Mystery to Solve" a jacket for Mary Anne Sterling

308. "Loving Father" a jacket for Leila Samy

307. "This is Personal"  a jacket for Brian Dixon

306.  "Training the Brier" a jacket for Catherine Costa

305. "Pop Pup EMR" a jacket for Kim Ball

304. "The Secret Garden" a jacket for Getta Nayyar

303. "The Shepherdess Path" a jacket for Karen Hein 

302. "Rx Redux" a jacket for Loran Cook by artist Jessica Nicula

 301. "Surmounting the System" a jacket for Troy Abshire, Sr. Artist by artist Jessica Nicula

300. "The Rolodex" a jacket for Cathy Collet

299. "65 Roses" a jacket Erin Moore

 298. "Analyzing Whispers" a jacket for Suzanne Carter

297.  "Gown of Tears" a jacket for Amy Edgar

296.  "Regrounding" a jacket for Lori Marx-Rubiner

295. "Passing Notes" a jacket for Wendy White

294. "Fixing Isolation with mobile." a jacket worn and painted by Vera Rulon

293. "Happiness" a jacket for Mike Riz

"Happiness" a jacket for Mike Riz

292. "Pieces Falling Into Place" a jacket for Mary Cattolico Camp

"Pieces Falling Into Place" a jacket for Mary Cattolico Camp

291. "From Sacred Vows to Cash Cows" a jacket for Laura Kowlaczkowski

"From Sacred Vows To Cash Cows" Laura Kolaczkowski

290. "Connector Man" a jacket for Jerry Matczak

"Connector Man" a jacket for Jerry Matczak

289.  "Listen" a jacket for Catherine Wilhelmy

"Listen" a jacket for Catherine Wilhelmy

288.  "Beyond the Business Suit" a jacket for Gillian Cappiello

"Beyond the Business Suit" a jacket for Gillian Cappiello

287. "Apples to Oranges' a jacket for Jim van den Beuken

"Apples to Oranges" a jacket for Jim van den Beuken

286. "Threshold Choir" a jacket for Ellen Rose

"Threshold Choir" a jacket for Ellen Rose

285. "Growing This" a jacket for ken Dobuler

"Growing This" a jacket for Kenneth Dobuler

284. " Where it all Began" a jacket for Jim Kinsey

"Where it all Began" a jacket for Jim Kensey

283. "The Path We Choose" a jacket for Marie-Michele Brodeur

"The Path We Choose" Marie-Michele Broduer

282. "The Rod at Our Back" a jacket for Catherine Crock

"The Rod at Our Back" a jacket for Catherine Crock

281.  "Anything I Put My Mind To" a jacket for Cathy Desautels

"Anything I put my Mind To" Cathy Desautels

280. "Missing You" a jacket for Carol Wahl

"missing You" a jacket for Carol Wahl

279."A Note at the Close" a jacket for Sue Ribaudo

"A Note at the Close" and jacket for Sue Ribaudo

278. "Presence" a jacket for Marie-Claude Poulin

"Presence" a jacket for Marie-Claude Poulin

277. "The Story of David and Annie" a jacket for Rob Sharrow

"The story of David and Annie" a jacket for Rob Sharrow

276. "The Pattern of a Life" a jacket for Kate Munger

"Pattern of a Life" a jacket for Kate Munger

275. "This is Love" a jacket for Susan Frampton

"This is Love" a jacket for Susan B. Frampton

274."Leading the Way" a jacket for Alex Fair
'Leading the Way" a jacket for Alex Fair

273.  "Round and Round and Round" a jacket for Richard Anderson

"Round and Round and Round" a jacket for Richard Anderson

272. "Zoe's Dream" our first honorary member of The Walking Gallery: Zoe
"Zoe's Dream" a jacket for Zoe

271. "Hospice Road" a jacket for Camea

"Hospice Road" a jacket for Camea

270. "Naked Thoughts" a jacket for Dana Lewis

"Naked Thoughts" a jacket for Dana Lewis

269. "Solving for X" a jacket for Catherine Rose
"Solving for X" a jacket for Catherine Rose

268. "Graduations" a jacket for Denise Theil
Denise Theil's jacket "Graduations"

267. "Following Orders" a jacket for Phyllis Goetz
"Following Orders" a jacket for Phyllis Goetz

266. "Save Me" a jacket for Danielle Swift
"Save Me" a jacket for Danielle Swift
265. "Hero's Journey" a jacket for Eileen Propp painted by Amy O'Hanlon

"Hero's Journey" a jacket for Eileen Propp painted by Amy O'Hanlon
264. "Banksy Heals Max" a jacket painted and worn by Chris Chan

"Banksy Heals Max" a jacket painted and worn by Chris Chan

263. "Making Me Believe" a jacket for Tracy Walsh

"Making Me Believe" a jacket for Tracy Walsh

262. "Drawing to a Close" a jacket for Alan Manning

"Drawing to a Close" a jacket for Alan Manning

261. "Helping Him to Fly" a jacket for Kimberly Gould Crawley

"Helping Him Fly' a jacket for Kimberly Gould Crawley

260. "Better Together" a jacket for Bruce Ramshaw

"Better Together" a jacket for Bruce Ramshaw
259. "Picket Line" a jacket for Steven F. Horowitz

"Picket Line" a jacket for Steven F. Horowitz

258.  "The Landscape of a Life" a jacket for Donna Cryer

"The Landscape of a Life" a jacket for Donna Cryer

257. "Lab Power" a jacket for Lisa Donnarumma

"Lab Power" a jacket for Lisa Donnarumma
256. "Silent No More" a jacket for Alice Mwongera
"Silent No More"a jacket for Alice Mwongera

 255. "My Chickens" a jacket worn and painted by Adalyn
"My Chickens" a jacket by Adalyn

254."Fly Space" a jacket for Colin Hung

"Flyspace" a jacket for Colin Hung

253. "The Highest Double" a jacket for Ian Eslick

"The highest Double" a jacket for Ian Eslick

252. "Shift" a jacket for Nick Van Terheyden

"Shift" a jacket for Nick Van Terheyden

The Artists of The Walking Gallery:

1. Regina Holliday 295 jackets
2. Isaac Holliday 6 yrs, 1 jacket
3. Becca Price, 1 jacket
4. Miriam Cutelis, 1 jacket
5. Ess Lipczenko, 1 jacket
6. Ben Merrion 1 jacket
7. Courtney Mazza 6 jackets
8. Michele Banks 1 jacket
9. Megan Mitchell 15 yrs 1 jacket
10. Robert J. Filley 3 jackets
11. Anita Samarth 1 jacket
12. Mary Welch Higgins 2 jackets
13. Richard Sachs 2 jackets
14. Jonah Daniel 5yrs  1 jacket
15. Fred Trotter 1 jacket
16. Leela 7yrs 1 jacket
17. Gayle Schrier Smith 1 jacket
18. Moira Simms 1 jacket
19. Joan Holliday 1 jacket
20. Adalyn 1 jacket
21. Chris Chan 1 jacket
22. Amy O'Hanlon 1 jacket
23. Vera Rulon 1 jacket
24. Jessica Nicula 2 jackets

If you would like to join the Gallery please find further instructions below the pictures of jackets of year three.

Here is a short film on the DC inaugural Gallery event:

to understand the origin of the idea. to understand the sacred nature of this path

To view the jackets in year one 1-162

To view the jackets of year two 163-251

Logistics of the Walking Gallery:  What you need to do to be a member: 

1.  Promise that you will wear this jacket to conferences and public events at least 2-3 times a year in order to spread awareness of the power of the patient voice.

2.  Send a business jacket. Please do not send jackets made of seersucker, corduroy, knit, denim, leather or stretch fabric, as they are hard to paint on.  Also this is a business jacket on purpose, we are painting on the “uniform” of the conference attendee.  Fabrics that work well are poly-blends, linen, cotton and wool. Also you might want to by a jacket a size larger than you usually do as the painting will stiffen the back and make it harder to close the buttons. 

3.  Tell me your patient story or patient-centered concept that is the center of why you work in health and medicine. Please send via email with some pictures if possible of yourself or the people in your story.  If you don't want to provide a picture, that’s okay, I have a vivid imagination.  Also please print it out and send with jacket so I can keep track of jackets and their stories.

4.  Artists can participate by painting their own jacket or another's or both.

5. This movement is spread through social media you will need to use facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, etc. to support the mission. I am using Twitter hash tag to link us all together so please tweet about your jacket appearances under #TheWalkingGallery

6.  You are free to use the image in your own advocacy mission; I also retain the right to reproduce the image for advocacy purposes. 

7.  Donations are welcome to offset the cost of paint and shipping, but are not required and you cannot buy a jacket painting.  You are joining a movement and this is a sacred oath to walk the walk and spread the word.

Welcome to the Gallery.

Any questions?