3 Questions for Irene Rosner David, PhD, ATR-BC, LCAT

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1.You have taught both the Clinical Topics in Challenged Populations and the Clinical Topics in Trauma courses to second year students in the MPS Art Therapy program, how has your teaching impacted your clinical work as Director of Therapeutic Arts at Bellevue Hospital?
I think one area of professional life infiltrates and enriches the other; there is a natural back-and-forth rhythm. As an instructor at SVA I shape material so as to best inform about clinical issues and aspects of trauma. My work at Bellevue Hospital is the australianviagra.com source from which the fountain of material flows, but there is a reciprocal benefit to my hospital work. The students’ interest and responses energize me, both in direct clinical work and in supervising staff. My teaching is a source of immense gratification, and I take this feeling to the hospital. The educational climate further widens my eyes, causes me to absorb even more so as to optimally teach my students.

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2. How has art therapy developed at Bellevue Hospital over the years?
When I began working at Bellevue in the early 1970s the creative arts were exclusively practiced with psychiatric populations. My position was in the medical division where previously only recreational activities had been offered to patients. From the beginning, I saw that disabled and traumatized patients benefitted from art activities in ways that were beyond diversional. Over time, I advocated for raising the bar and gradually engendered administrative support for the creative arts as therapy in medicine. This expanded and elevated art therapy to a substantive clinical service that contributes to effective coping with physical and cognitive impairment.

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3. Bellevue set up an Ebola Treatment Unit last year to treat people returning from West Africa. Can you talk about your experience with this, especially with regard to emotions evoked by staff at the hospital, as well as the potential for art therapy?
Working at a historic institution and major trauma center, one becomes accustomed to high profile cases and media appeal. In my experience over the years, whether at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the resurgence of infectious tuberculosis or now with the threat of Ebola, we process our emotions without affecting patient care. For example, we have had an art therapy program in the TB isolation unit since the 1980s, without concern about contagion because we follow infection control guidelines. Clearly, patients with an ominous disease who are quarantined or isolated experience a range of emotions that can be addressed by art therapy. In the case of the patient with Ebola, only essential medical staff provided care, but I did pass along art materials via the critical care physicians.

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Irene Rosner David, PhD, ATR-BC, LCAT is a Director of Therapeutic Arts at the Bellevue Hospital Center, where she developed and implemented medical art therapy. She has also undertaken qualitative research on the benefits of art therapy for brain injured patients as it cultivates cognition. Irene organized an exhibition for the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, which displayed works of art created by staff who experienced personal and institutional trauma, such as loss of loved ones, or re-deployment when the hospital was evacuated. She also curated annual art exhibitions for the anniversary of 9/11, including pieces created by patients in Bellevue’s WTC program. She is continually encouraged by the artistic and emotional expression her patients have developed under her care. Despite their disabilities and physical illnesses, her patients remain eager and invested. Irene has been a member of the MPS Art Therapy Department faculty since 2003.

Photos provided by Irene Rosner David.

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