New mural lights up medical campus, offers history lesson – Medical College News

East Canfield motorists and pedestrians enjoy west St. Antoine Street has a much more lively excursion and walk – along with a history lesson – thanks to a huge, newly installed mural.

The mural, a product of a Public Humanities Initiative to connect a multidisciplinary team of physicians, artists, students, and activists to the broader community to celebrate the history of diversity in medicine and public health at Wayne State University and in the city, is installed the 375-foot concrete wall along the sidewalk north of Scott Hall, On the south side of Canfield Street, on June 13.

The Wayne State University College of Medicine’s Office of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development collaborated with Washington State University’s Department of Fine Arts, Performing Arts, and Communication to design the artwork. WSU fine arts students designed the mural, based on oral histories of community members with deep roots to the site where the medical school is located. The area is the former site of the Plymouth Congregational Church in the historic Black Bottom and Paradise Valley neighborhoods of Detroit. The mural is intended to be a monument to African American progress in the medical field, in Detroit and within the global community.

In 2019, drawing and painting professor Margie Weir had a vision for a mural painting course. I shared this insight with Department Chair Sheryl Oring, and students have been making — and recording — history ever since.

There is now a collaborative working group called Integration of Arts in Medical Education, led by Oring, chair of the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History. Bina Sood, MD, associate dean for professional development at the School of Medicine; and Grace Serra, curator of the WSU Art Collection. “We have brought together an impressive group of active collaborators on this project, which shows how complementary it is in addressing some of today’s most important issues,” Oring said. “Art can play a critical role in helping us see things in new ways, hone observational skills and provide a vehicle for healing.”

Kara Young and Ephemera Fae, MA in the Department of Art and Art History, and Ashley Kramer, MD/PhD. A medical student, he was involved in the planning and execution of the mural, and also ran workshops with a group of medical students on visual reasoning strategies, gesture drawing and gross anatomy.

Jennifer Mendes, PhD, associate professor emeritus, internal medicine and director of community engagement programs, led a multidisciplinary research study funded by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The study included Fae and Young who drew on art from the WSU Art Collection, and facilitated visual thinking strategy sessions to train medical students to develop more acute visual literacy. Visual literacy training assists medical students in a range of areas, including better interpretation of ultrasound images and developing an implicit awareness of bias when evaluating patients.

When she headed the Women in Medicine and Science group, Dr. Sood facilitated the Journal Club organized by the American Medical Association. The club discussed an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Deck the Halls with Diverse Portraits,” which analyzed how murals in medical schools tend to promote racial stereotypes and implicit bias. She called for the need to display various teams in medical colleges and academic health centers.

“This article has left a deep impression on me,” she said. “Those of us in the magazine club thought it would be great to have a mural in our school that shows the true diversity of our profession.”

Dr. Sood brought these ideas forward in collaboration with Oring, Serra, and the Department of Art and Art History. I learned that the College of Fine and Performing Arts and Communication and the Department of Art and Art History are looking forward to collaborating with the College of Medicine.

The mural, supported by a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, honors the history of diversity in medicine and the impact of African-American healthcare leaders in Detroit and today. The mural also celebrates the role of the Medical College and Detroit Medical Center in shaping health care and public health.

“We hope this will reveal the important symbiotic relationship between the university and the wider community, and use it as a bridge to create a better future,” Serra said. “Art is the necessary tool for telling these stories.”

Community participation played an important role in the project.

“We knew we needed community involvement in this project, and it was necessary to include their voices,” said Dr. Sood. “We want to break down any barriers between Wayne State University School of Medicine and the people we serve, and this project can be a way to achieve that connection.”

Serra conducted oral history interviews while Young and Fay held hearings with medical students to help develop the concept of the mural. Serra worked with community leaders Reverend Jimmy Womack and Reverend Nicholas Hood of Christ United Church in Plymouth on St Antoine Street to connect with members of the congregation and conduct oral history interviews. The church, which is located near the Medical College, has strong historical ties to Dunbar Hospital. Dunbar, built in 1892, was Detroit’s first black community hospital. At the time, “Black doctors were not able to practice, and black patients would not be accepted into white hospitals. A strong community was built connected to Black Bottom and Paradise Valley, which was just around the corner from Paradise Theater and Gotham Hotel. A strong community was built,” Serra said. These were all very important and popular sites.”

One of the participants in the oral history is a descendant of Daisy Hill Northcross, MD, a major figure in the history of medicine in Detroit. Dr. Northcross, the second black woman to apply for a medical license in Alabama, immigrated from Montgomery to Detroit in 1916. The following year, she and her husband David Northcross opened the city’s first black owned and operated hospital, at Detroit’s Mercy General Hospital, which gave birth to The road to Dunbar Hospital, where many prominent African American doctors would begin. Northcrosses also opened a nurse training center, a hotel, and a store. Dr. Daisy Northcross is commemorated in the mural.

Fay said the mural celebrates both the Black Bottom residents who lived on the medical school site as well as the ongoing influence of the Detroit medical community.

“We want to remember that this place was associated with the Black Bottom,” Young said. “We also want to honor and celebrate communities that have been marginalized and remember that history as well — not in a painful way, but in a way that celebrates Detroit and the inclusive parts of that history.”

Serra stressed the importance of communicating this history through projects such as the mural.

She said, “If we are talking about the history of the medical school and how the medical school has been involved in the community, we have to stress that there were things that existed before DMC and WSU College of Medicine. We need to communicate the impact of this vibrant community to students and to everyone. While doing the interviews, I found that it was It is invaluable for members of society to tell their stories. This is a legacy. They realize that they are the ones who remember those times and that at some point no one will be alive during those times. The idea that young people who were not even born during that time will hear this Stories firsthand are a really important and valuable idea.”

“This work is for Detroiters and also for people in the medical community, which is especially important right now,” Fay said. “This is something we as artists can do to honor the medical community that has literally impacted everyone’s life in a very direct way.”

Courtesy of Siobhan Gregory, Professor of Art and Art History at WSU