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Artist advocates for patients through artwork

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Posted on March 29, 2017

Patient advocate and artist Ted Meyer said health care professionals should remember their patients are people and are not defined by their disease.

Meyer gave two presentations at Grand Valley March 28 as the distinguished lecturer for The Bonnie Wesorick Center for Health Care Transformation.

At the DeVos Center, Meyer detailed his project, "Scarred for Life: Monoprints of Human Scars," which highlights the courage of people who have been in medical crises or accidents through artwork. He later gave an informal presentation at Mary Idema Pew Library.

He said the catalyst for the project was a women who was in a wheelchair because she broke her spine. "I made a print of her scar and that was the starting point for telling her story," Meyer said. "Now, I'm a storyteller for other people."

Meyer was born with Gaucher disease, which affects bones and joints, and was not expected to live past 30; he began painting while in the hospital. The images he created detailed the pain he suffered.

New medicine was available while Meyer was in his late 20s and it saved his life. Now in his late 50s, he said his artwork changed after the pain was gone, and became more lively, colorful and sensual. 

"I had this entirely new life. What should I do with it?" he said.

He began curating art exhibits at medical schools, showing students artwork done by hospitalized patients. He is the current artist-in-residence at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. 

"If you think of patients as people, you will do the best thing for them," he said. "I was given a second chance, and the best thing I could do is to tell you the stories of these patients."

Evelyn Clingerman, executive director of the Wesorick Center, said Meyer's presentation matched the mission of the center of keeping the patient at the center of health care transformation. The Wesorick Center is an endowed center promoting interprofessional collaboration through the Kirkhof College of Nursing.

The center collaborated with Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University to bring Meyer to West Michigan. An exhibition of KCAD students and Meyer's work, "Art and Healing," will run through April 8 at KCAD's Helen Miller Kendall Gallery, 17 Fountain St. NW in Grand Rapids.