Heather learned that offering food was a way to offer care. Having grown up in a household that considered a Pop Tart breakfast and a Snickers bar an afternoon snack, she was in for food culture shock when she first went to dinner at her boyfriend’s middle eastern household. A warm welcome and the fragrance of Allspice met her at the door. The entree was “Upside Down Dinner” – rice and savory vegetables simmered in a pot and then turned out onto a platter to be served. The food fed her appetite and the hospitality fed her soul. Repeats of this satisfying experience inspired Heather to study the science of food in college. Now she enjoys caring for patients by nourishing them. Think about it. Whether having heart surgery or having a baby, every patient needs to eat! She deeply values the healing aspect of sharing a meal. “I would love to gather patients and serve food around a dining table if we could,” Heather muses. Her current father-in-law, the same cook that inspired her years ago, still loves to tease. “Eat, Heather,” he coaxes, “We love you so much we want to see more of you!”
Heather is a Clinical Dietician at St. Mark’s
St. Mark’s Hospital Chaplain Saundra Shanti wanted to connect patients to their caregivers and employees to each other. That’s why she created the Healing Hands portrait series, featuring black and white photographs and stories of St. Mark’s employees at all levels.
“Our patients and families who go in and out know that this is a nurse, and this is a housekeeper, but they don’t know them as people,” Saundra said. “I wanted to humanize our healthcare community to one another and to our families and patients.”
Each photo is accompanied by a story; some biographical, others are anecdotes of experiences that led employees to become caregivers and healthcare professionals. Twelve portraits are currently displayed throughout the hospital, but a total of 36 photos will be rotated throughout the exhibit for the next two months.
By highlighting personal, inspiring and real stories about the staff who will be caring for patients during what can often be an emotional time, the exhibit builds a sense of community. Patients and families will be able to view caregivers as real people with real stories whom they can relate to and connect with, making the hospital experience more personal.
“When we humanize each other, we care more for one another,” Saundra said. “I wanted our employees to be recognized as valuable human beings apart from their professional titles. I wanted to cultivate interaction and respect across our departments and services.”