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Saturday, September 23, 2023


Communications class gets featured in Houston hospitals

Paige Bukowski - Frio River

“I submitted a photograph of the Frio River. My family has had a huge reunion there every summer for over 100 years, so it is a place I treasure dearly. I chose the photo because when I look at it, I am transported to memories of family fun and relaxation. I hope that when people view my photo, that they too feel a sense of tranquility and peace,” said Paige Bukowski about her contest submission (above). | Courtesy of Paige Bukowski

As part of a new project for the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication’s provider-patient communication class, professor Jill Yamasaki and her eight graduate students participated in a photography contest to provide artwork for 10 new clinics in the local Harris Health System, and their submissions are now on display at Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson hospitals.

With a goal to humanize the health care system, Yamasaki’s class studies the relationships between patient and provider and learns ways to create effective communication between the two. Yamasaki said she proposed the idea to the students as a way to implement the theories they had learned in class into a real-world situation.

“Humanizing health care is really important, and with Texas Medical Center being right here, we are really fortunate to be able to see this in action,” Yamasaki said. “Having photos on the wall and being able to (capture a) normal moment of dialogue between patients, families and providers that isn’t medical-related helps calm the patients. It helps them feel valued.”

Her students said they were just as excited about the project.

“I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to give back to the community,” said health communications graduate student Paige Bukowski. “I also believed it would be a great way to provide patients with an escape from their current situation through our photographs.”

Yamasaki said her class focuses on narrative medicine and the effectiveness of eliciting patients’ personal stories.

“We talk about the importance of making patients feel comfortable, making them feel less like a number and more like a name,” Yamasaki said. “We saw this as a way to do that. The photos were meant to spur conversation to enable patients to relax in the waiting room, to be able to engage with others, to spur moments of dialogue between patient, staff, providers and family members. It is a way to forge connections.”

Bukowski said health communication is more than just verbal and nonverbal cues between patients and providers.

“This contest allows us to see the importance of hospital aesthetics and patient environment. One major lesson I believe we learned is the impact the hospital environment has on patients. Hopefully our art and photography helps patients and providers alike feel more at home,” she said.

The class participated in all four of the creative categories, which included landscapes, animals, healthy foods and favorite places.  Some students submitted photos of places they had gone to with their families or photos from their vacations. The goal was to submit anything they felt would inspire dialogue and ease patients’ minds.

“I looked forward to the project since it’s not your usual assignment, especially outside of a photography class,” said health communications graduate student Carmen Galvan. “Knowing my picture could make a difference was very motivational.”

Yamasaki said she hopes to engage her students in more community outreach opportunities in the future and that all UH students will be inspired to get involved with the community — not only as an opportunity to give back but to learn something as well.

“I always try to engage my students in some type of community outreach,” Yamasaki said. “I think it’s important for UH students and classes to participate in the Houston community. I think it is an effective way to see how theory can contribute to practice. It’s a lot of fun, and it means a lot for students to make a difference in their community. To see what we learn in class actually applied is great.”

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