In the spring of 2017, Olivia Davis, Assistant Curator for the Montefiore Medical Center Fine Art Program and Collection, approached renowned artist Tom Christopher to create the first virtual reality experience specifically for pediatric cancer patients in New York City.
The hospital wanted to create a painting that patients “walk through” from their hospital bed, something patients could relate to, something at once familiar (their neighborhood), surprising, and magical.
Davis immediately thought of Christopher, who is known for his expressionist take on urban life.
Founded in 1884, Montefiore Medical Center is a nationally ranked university research and teaching hospital affiliated with the Albert Einstein School of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. The hospital’s mission explicitly includes innovating new treatments while advancing the health of the community it serves.
“With the advent of new technologies and the influence on younger generations, we saw that we needed to unite art and technology in hopes of enhancing the healing process,” said Davis. “We quickly realized that the power of this technology was stronger than we anticipated, and Tom was able to create a unique, community-oriented work of art that is so much more meaningful than generic VR games on the market.”
“An immersive virtual reality experience can commandeer a patient’s brain so it no longer focuses on pain,” says Dr. Brennan Spiegel, a researcher, gastroenterologist, and professor of medicine at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. “It doesn’t work on everybody, but when it works, it really, really works,” he said.
“The Virtual Reality Fine Art Program at Montefiore seeks to diminish anxiety, pain and opioid addiction through stimulus-rich and curated artistic environments. These experiences will serve as ‘immersive analgesics’ allowing physicians to treat their patients more effectively by improving patient’s health and hospital experiences and reducing reliance on pain medication, especially opioids,” Davis said.
Read the story at Forbes.
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