Artist, Nurse Officer, and Surgeon Deliberate the 'Art and Science of Healing'

By Jacqueline Gase
NMHM Public Affairs Coordinator

Group in front of the 'The Art and Science of Healing' exhibit

U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Moira McGuire (left), artist Ted Meyer (center), and U.S. Navy Capt. Robert Howard (right) stand in front of the exhibit titled "The Art and Science of Healing" during the July 11, 2019, opening and colloquium hosted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in collaboration with the National Museum of Health and Medicine. (NMHM photo)

On July 11, 2019, NMHM collaborated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to present a colloquium and art opening for the exhibition "The Art & Science of Healing" at AAAS in Washington, D.C. Featuring the work of Ted Meyer, the exhibit explores patients journey's through the healing process of an injury, disease, or trauma.

Meyer was born with Gaucher's disease, a genetic disorder that affects many of the body's organs and tissues. Although Meyer was told he would die by the age of 30, after the National Institutes of Health developed a treatment, Meyer was left with time and purpose. Deciding to work with patients to share their stories of strength and survival, he used art and their scars as his medium.

The exhibition, "The Art and Science of Healing," is a collection of mixed-media artwork showcasing scars that tell the stories of Meyer's subjects as they battled injury, disease, and trauma. Meyer describes this process as "a finishing point in their healing because [the event of the injury] a set point in time but the healing could take a month or a year....They want to mark being done with their scars. They want to mark whatever happened and that they have survived."

To discuss Meyer's work within the fields of medicine and science, U.S. Public Health Service Capt. Moira McGuire, assistant chief of Integrative Health and Wellness at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and U.S. Navy Capt. Robert Howard, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Walter Reed, participated in the exhibit colloquium.

McGuire emphasized how creativity can be used to heal. McGuire interacts with many service members who are learning how to recover from their wounds, mentally and physically. Stressing a patient-centered program, McGuire explained that healthcare professionals have to understand who the patient is in order to help them through their healing process, and art can help do that.

McGuire stated that creative opportunities are some of the best ways for patients to express themselves and heal. "We're all creative people who need to express...and [art] provides us an opportunity for everyone to share in their experiences and build a community around it," said McGuire. Many of the patients visiting McGuire at Walter Reed are service members who experienced combat and trauma. McGuire recognizes that service members benefit from the unique qualities of healing, hope and enhanced well-being that creative engagement and expressive activities provide.

Howard had different experiences to share about the healing process. While Meyer and McGuire attend the psychological and spiritual aspects in the patient's journey, Howard focuses on the physical healing, namely the science of wound healing and scar management. Howard assesses the function of the limb, the range of motion, and the pain and numbness with a goal "to reconstruct a patient's wounds to prevent both disability and deformity," said Howard.

At Walter Reed, Howard works to restore a sense of normalcy to patients when it comes to wounds and scars, stating that scars can be constant reminders of pain, suffering, and loss. His job is to help patients in the physical healing realm through techniques like laser and stem cell therapies. Though Howard's work aims to manipulate scars so they are unnoticeable, he admires Meyer's work as a part of the healing process to help people accept their scars and the associated memories.

Meyer, McGuire, and Howard are all involved in an aspect of a patient's healing journey. Whether physical, psychological, or spiritual, they all attend to a unique facet of a patient's healing process.

"The Art and Science of Healing" will remain at AAAS through October 2019.

The museum's public programs provide forums for informal learning that connect the mission of the Department of Defense museum with the public. For more information about upcoming events, call (301) 319-3303 or visit

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