John Graham-Pole, M.D., MRCP, ABHM, a now-retired UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital pediatric hematologist/oncologist, UF professor emeritus of pediatrics, oncology and palliative care and medical director of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, began writing poetry as a way to come to terms with being a cancer specialist for young people. It helped him and planted the seed of bringing art to the patient bedside.
Graham-Pole was motivated in early 1990 to write an article entitled “Exploring the Connection” about art and medicine for the magazine, House Calls, a magazine that was sent to all physicians in Alachua County. The wife of a local orthopedic surgeon read Graham-Pole’s article and called him. The woman who reached out was a nurse, Mary Rockwood-Lane, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN., an associate professor in the UF College of Nursing. Rockwood-Lane shared with Graham-Pole that she was also an artist.
“We got together and before we knew it, we had a gathering to bring artists from around the community together to explore how we might bring the arts in the form of artists into the health center in one form or another,” Graham-Pole said.
Graham-Pole and Rockwood-Lane went on to establish the innovative artist in residence program, which they named Arts in Medicine and led for the next 15 years.
Around the same time, Melvin L. Rubin, M.D., M.S.C., UF College of Medicine chair and an ophthalmology professor, hired Tina Mullen, director of the UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program, as a consultant to see how art collections could positively impact the hospital.
After a year, Graham-Pole and Mullen learned of each other and decided to meet in front of the UF Health Shands Hospital Atrium.
“We decided we should join our forces, if you will, and from there it grew rather steadily,” Graham-Pole recalled.