On Friday, November 30, I had the opportunity to give a Powerpoint presentation in the Acuff Auditorium of the School of Medicine to the Senior Teacher Educator Program (STEP) that pairs medical students with elder mentors. Special thanks go to Museum Docents Mike and Pat Kraff for setting the presentation in motion. The purpose of this extraordinary program is to help medical students learn first-hand from elders about the aging process and even about life itself. Judging by the enthusiastic turnout and relationships I witnessed (not to mention the great food and cookies I enjoyed!), the field of geriatrics at the School of Medicine has already taken a giant STEP forward.
Before my presentation I had the l opportunity to dine with STEP program participants and hear stories from both medical students and elders about their experiences. What clearly emerged from my discussions with them was that some deeply personal relationships had already developed between medical students and elders that far transcended what was initially a ‘program’. Life itself was now their subject matter, and that got me thinking about the purpose of the Museum of Art & Archaeology….
Our mission is to advance understanding of our artistic and cultural heritage by interpreting significant and authentic art and artifacts in meaningful contexts. The STEP program proved to be just such a meaningful context for advancing understanding of our heritage. Program participants across generations are already sharing life experiences and creating their own cultural wisdom, so my presentation about the treasures available at the Museum of Art & Archaeology (such as the bust of Homer in the Cast Gallery) simply added another ‘layer’ of valuable material to their discussion. The consciously intergenerational nature of the audience with their different sets of ‘eyes’ seemed to heighten our awareness of the artistry underlying the images I presented, while talking to young and old about different images of the human mosaic and stages of our life odyssey deepened their meaning for me personally and, hopefully, for the viewers. One participant observed that my presentation showed STEP participants the arts are just as vital to our lives as the sciences. And that’s a giant step forward indeed….
STEP program brochure (pdf)