Friday, September 28, 2012

Healing Healthcare Environment

Recently, I went to a store called Flor where carpet squares, often thought of only used in corporate environments, are used in a new modern way to create personally designed rugs and carpets.  I had a great time putting together colors and patterns to transform a room in a fairly cheap and simple manner.  

This is the style I chose for our office.  Pretty sweet!

This revival of my interior designing phase got me thinking about the interior of hospitals, doctor's offices, and other healthcare spaces.  Usually not places you want to go to, stay in, and often there is a very specific smell to connect with our horrible hospital memories too.  But what if the environment a person was in was involved completely in the healing process?  Stress is the opposite thing needed to help someone who is ill.

We all know how much better a space can look by simply having windows.  For example, my kitchen right now has absolutely no natural light and thus looks like an insane asylum.  Do I like to spend time there?  No.  My bedroom, however, has a floor to ceiling window with a beautiful view.  Shocking as it may seem, I feel better in my bedroom than the kitchen.

Healthcare consumers are paying a lot for a service to be healthy; sticking them in a dark, smelly space is a disservice.  I know that hospitals aren't going to put interior design as a first priority, and they shouldn't.  But at some point, tiles have to get replaced, artwork is placed on walls, window treatments are chosen.  At these points in time, I think it is extremely important to make a thoughtful decision.  With options like Flor carpet tiles, there are color and design options that are affordable but also stylish.  With aging baby-boomers, there will be more people than ever before occupying all facets of healthcare.  Especially with an aging population, these people deserve and will expect a healthful experience.  Of course, a hospital won't turn into a spa (though that's an idea to look into) but it could be a place grandkids don't dread going to to see their grandparents in the event of an illness.

I know I would be interested in having my artwork be able to comfort someone in a dark time.  To be able to give a person with an illness the promise of a bright future by simply allowing them to see natural light and softly painted walls instead of harsh white seems like a no-brainer.  For more information on healing environments, follow these links:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kindle is a Gift from the Gods

I once feared the loss of physical books: the tactile sense of page turning, the smell of a bookstore, the way lots of books on a shelf makes you look smart.  No more.  I got my Kindle June of 2011 and have been obsessed ever since.

Top 5 Reasons I'm in Love with Kindle:
1) Cheaper than physical books
2) High quantity of books without the weight and paper use
3) Kindle on iPhone, lap top, and Kindle device
4) Instant gratification of purchase
5) Ease of publication for self-published
Bonus- Books are reviewed by average people and Amazon makes great suggestions based on passed purchases

"1) Cheaper than physical books" I hate spending money!  I have sat in a bookstore all day and read a book that I couldn't find at the library for free.  When I'm feeling like not spending a dime there are tons of free books available on Amazon.  Some of the them honestly suck, but once in awhile you find a gem.  If you are willing to up your game to doling out a dollar for a book, the level of writing goes up exponentially.  It has opened my eyes to novellas.  What more perfect place to publish a book only 100 pages long for a dirt cheap price than for e-readers.  I can check out an author in a quick, cheap read that would rarely be found on a bookstore shelf.  I like to read a book in one sitting, I don't care if it's 50 pages or 500 pages.  Novellas have helped me to be have fewer sleepless nights trying to finish a novel.

"2) High quantity of books without the weight and paper use" I have around 160 Kindle books at this time.  That means at anytime, any where, I have access to 160 books on my iPhone.  Carrying around one paperback book can be a pain, having a cellphone within reaching distance 24/7 is a constant in my life.  When I move, I don't have to move 160 books, and I've saved 160 books from being published in paper.  Pretty darn awesome.

"3) Kindle on iPhone, lap top, and Kindle device" As previously mentioned, iPhones support Kindle books.  But did you know you don't need to buy a Kindle reader to buy Kindle books?  You can now read them in a browser without even having an app on your laptop.  I love being able to switch from reading on my laptop, my Kindle reader, and my iPhone, pages synched.  

"4) Instant gratification of purchase" I admit, I'm getting fairly spoiled when a two day wait for a book to get physically shipped to me is too long.  But when you see a book you want to read at that moment there's nothing better than it getting downloaded and starting to read within 10 seconds.  I recently wanted to get a textbook with practice test questions that I needed for a test a week away.  I could have bought it, waited 2 days for it to get shipped to me, worried about it getting lost and not actually getting the studying I needed to do done.  Instead, I downloaded the Kindle edition and was going through practice questions within the same five minutes I made the purchase.  I see a bright future in digital textbooks.  For medical illustrators, this creates an entire new level of interactive inexperiences within a traditional learning device.  Textbooks can contain videos, interactive quizzes, and social interactions within a book.  Image an illustration that you can rotate and see in 3D, you can enlarge it to see details. Maybe even edit it yourself to create an interactive learning experience.

"5) Ease of publication for self-published" My favorite Kindle purchases have been self-published stories.  I love that anyone can be a published author, it is in the hands of the readers to decide what is entertaining and not publishers deciding what a specific demographic wants.  This has happened on YouTube, making everyday people create television I'd rather watch then live TV.  They can find niche audiences and not have to sacrifice content to advertisements.  The future of self-published stories is bright.  "On The Island" by Tracy Garvis Graves is an example of how e-books can now go viral, and she happens to be from my hometown, Des Moines, IA!

"Bonus- Books are reviewed by average people and Amazon makes great suggestions based on passed purchases" I will never run out of material to read because of Amazon.  Amazon's pretty darn sneaky about sending me straight to books I want to buy.  Their suggests are extremely accurate, and I've found more than one author through "Recommendations for You."  Seeing people's honest opinions of the books also gives me that final push to purchase and read.

How does this relate to medical illustration?  As I've previously mentioned, e-textbooks will soon be more fully developed and I imagine used widely across college campuses.  It also allows people with niche knowledge to find a market and publish at a low cost.  Simply writing a "How to Apply to Medical Illustration Grad School" could be put out digitally and find readers.  This would never happen in a book store.  Writing can begin to incorporate dazzling images and video content.  Stories will be able to be told in an entirely new way.  Goodbye constraints and hassles of physical books, hello to the possibilities of digital reading.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Every Body is Different

Dissecting a cadaver is an experience unlike any I've had before.  Academically, it has pushed me harder than any other class, but beyond that it's a lesson in humility and life.  Pulling apart a body in the name of science takes some of the emotional sting out of it, but there is no stopping wondering who this person once was.  I respect my model immensely.  To give that kind of gift is near miraculous.

Seeing what a human is comprised of, it takes some of the mystery out of being human.  We are made of plain stuff all the way through.  Yes, it's complicated, but there are no rainbows and magical unicorns.  Having so many emotions, so much creativity, control of our bodies for dancing, for writing, for painting, every memory we have, contained in something so unmagical.  It's messy and slimy and I swear our muscles are held together by spiderwebs at times.  But there's got to be something else inside there when we are living.  To see everything pulsing and in vivid color, to see life like that, it'd be amazing.  I look forward to surgical orientation, to see that color and life.

Being exposed to 16 dead bodies daily makes you really see the differences and similarities in humanity.  Naked and exposed to scrutiny from the outside in, there are no secrets.  Sizes, shapes, skin tone, muscle tone, they all change, but inside we are the same.  Or are we?  In reality we are as different inside physically as out.  Not every artery and vein chooses the path the anatomy book says it should.  Not every muscle is as it supposedly should.  Inside you can see what surgical changes have happened.  It's not just a scar, it's a change.

This idea that our insides are just as different as our outsides needs to be reflected in our knowledge of health.  More thought needs to be put into seeing the unique characteristics within us than fitting us in groups to try to treat in mass.  One-size-fits-all does not work in pharmaceuticals, nutrition, surgery, and exercise.  I think that integrative medicine (alternative medicine) is the start of person-by-person care that will result in better health literacy.  When people know more about their own health, the less often they get sick, the less often they need healthcare, the less strain there is on the healthcare system.  People believe in their medical care, practitioners need to begin to believe in their patients.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


Hello!  Let me first introduce myself, my name is Audrey Gifford.  I'm a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the graduate program Biomedical Visualization.  I graduated May 2012 from Iowa State University in Biological/Pre-medical Illustration, and I'm originally from West Des Moines, Iowa.

So, what am I doing here in Chicago?  

My interest lies in patient education for minority groups, specifically LGBT and women's health.  I would like to use new media/social media to help communicate ideas of health and general wellness more readily and easily.  An example would be having a free iPhone app that would explain your healthcare options as an LGBT individual.  There could also be an iPad app that a doctor could use to ask the right questions so every individual feels comfortable with language used and that their health is not compromised by lack of information/communication.

In a similar vein, I'm interested in creating better ambience in waiting rooms and examination rooms for all healthcare providing locations such as hospitals, dentists, etc.  Posters that depict different lifestyles, celebrating making personal choices, and create a connection between an average person and the care that they are there to receive could make every person feel comfortable within that space.  When a person feels at ease, communication is much more direct and open, resulting in better care overall.

Creating a connection between modern medicine and alternative medicine is an important step within our current healthcare system.  From past research I've done, many minority groups feel more comfortable using alternative medicine sources but through these practitioners patients can't always get important medical tests for certain diseases, such as a Pap smear.  If there were more connection between modern medicine practitioners and alternative medicine practitioners, patients could get the complete care they want from whom they want to get it from.

Overall, I want to create ways to communicate medical ideas to the public that uses new media - YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, apps, blogging, podcasts, etc. increasing health literacy.  Someone who inspires me is Jillian Michaels.  She has created a health brand that includes youtube videos (, her own podcasts, she creates fitness videos, health apps, and uses new technology to help incorporate health choices in our daily lives.  Blogs such as Iowa Girl Eats (, Peanut Butter Fingers (, and Oh She Glows ( also are really interesting to me and represent a way of communication I would like to learn and use.

I want people to realize that being healthy is a simple part of everyday life, not a once a year, 30 minute check up with a doctor you barely know.  Taking simple steps over the course of a lifetime will result in quality of life down the road.  Over the course of two years in school here in Chicago, it is my goal to make connections with similarly-minded people and find a way to make these ideas become a reality.  This blog will document that journey, so let's see how it goes!

Polar bear at the Lincoln Park Zoo