Wake Forest GHHS member captures the heart of community health in her art

Gold Humanism Honor Society Member Lauren Clopper poses next to her mural at Wake Forest Baptist Health featuring local community health organizations.

Gold Humanism Honor Society member Lauren Clopper at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, found herself, like many students, with a lot of spare time this spring. As the COVID-19 pandemic surged, Lauren’s busy schedule as a fourth-year medical student was put on pause while her school pulled students from clinical rotations and scrambled to switch to a virtual curriculum. While Lauren was unable to work physically in the healthcare setting, she wanted to somehow stay connected.

Lauren used her newfound downtime to get creative. Painting was already an outlet for her, and she had noticed colorful murals at Wake Forest Baptist Health, the local hospital affiliated with her medical school. She came up with the idea to create a mural to brighten people’s day and honor those caring for patients during the pandemic and always.

A longitudinal health equity course that Lauren took in her third year had introduced her to several local community health organizations and their critical work promoting well-being outside of the hospital and served as the inspiration for this project.

“As part of [our] curriculum, we learned about, toured, and served at many local community service organizations,” she said. “I felt like these sorts of organizations usually don’t get as much airtime when discussing community health…Because of this, I wanted to incorporate as many local organizations as possible into my mural.”

The eight featured organizations include the Winston Salem Ronald McDonald House, Crisis Control Ministry, SECU Family House, School Health Alliance, Shalom Project, Shepard Center, HOPE, and Samaritan Ministries. These organizations provide housing, offer financial emergency assistance, fight hunger, challenge the cycle of poverty, and so much more to supplement community members’ health in ways traditional medicine cannot reach.

“I had never designed a mural before, but I thought using an anatomical heart would be a good template to overlay different aspects of community health,” she said. “A heart has naturally occurring quadrants and segments, which made it easy to have different parts of the mural come together into one larger picture.”

The mural shows the vital support these organizations provide as the unwavering support of a beating heart to its connected structures: Both are critical to the function of a greater body.

To get the project started, Lauren reached out to a professor who helped her seek approval by the hospital for her mural design. She also contacted an artist who had created several of the other paintings at the hospital to gather tips and advice. The Wake Forest GHHS chapter funded the painting supplies. Lauren recruited several other GHHS members and Wake Forest medical students to help with the project. Together, they painted the mural and brought her idea to life.

Lauren noted that she had only taken a few college art classes. She encourages other medical students to undertake similar projects, which can offer a creative respite in the thick of medical school.

“Art projects have been a great way for me to relax and take my mind off of school on evenings and weekends,” she said. “Having a creative outlet, usually painting or ceramics, allows me to recharge and get ready for whatever the next day has in store.”

Such GHHS projects are a wonderful way to turn creativity into touchpoints of humanism for even more people. Thank you, Lauren and the Wake Forest GHHS Chapter!

Jennifer Stern

Jennifer Stern is a physician assistant student at the Duke University School of Medicine and a former intern of humanism in medicine at the Gold Foundation.