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article imageSan Francisco Cardiology Clinic uses art to help healing Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Dec 16, 2010 in Entertainment
Helping to heal the human heart through art seems to be the method by which Dr. Ed Kersh, M.D. is reaching out his patients at California Pacific Medical Center.
OnNov. 18, Kersh and his staff sponsored a lecture & art event at the Cardiovascular Center at CPMC’s St. Luke’s campus in San Francisco’s Mission District.
Kersh serves as Chief of Cardiology. He took a few moments from his busy schedule to give this reporter a tour and talk about his work.
"When the clinic was built in 2004 I knew right away that it needed something," said Kersh. "A very nice facility with state-of-the-art equipment but nothing on the walls," he said.
It just so happened that when the clinic was built one of Kersh's patients, artist Antonio Huerta, had made a painting for him.
This gave Dr. Kersh the idea to have artwork fill in the empty spaces on the walls. The new multi-million dollar facility would be enhanced giving it some distinction from the other adjacent clinics at St. Luke's Hospital.
CPMC through Sutter Health, Inc. acquired the century-old St. Luke’s in the 1990’s from the Episcopal Church of San Francisco amid sky-rocketing cost deficits. Since that acquisition the efforts to upgrade and rebuild the entire hospital has been arduous but steady.
Kersh understood that if he wanted to bring art into the new facility, he would have to do it himself. And so as the guiding force of the Cardiology clinic, what Kersh simply had intended as a one-time gathering to raise some money has now become an annual event.
Art can be very soothing and use of art and design to help promote healing can be traced back to ancient times.
During the Renaissance Leon Battista Alberti among others in Florence Italy in the 1400’s made reference to the ancients like Vitruvius, who saw the important role art and architecture played in the healing of the sick.
The Cardiology clinic at St. Luke’s is filled with the works of local artists. The overall mood of the facility is more relaxing. Staff such as office manager Danny Placencia and administrative assistant Marisa Dorantes interact with more ease giving full attention to patient’s needs.
The contrast between the clinic and the other parts of the hospital is noticeable. The Cardiology clinic fosters a calming effect on both staff and patients alike. The mood in the other parts of St. Luke’s feels institutional, and sometimes sterile. Kersh thinks the calming effect of the art to be essential in encouraging patients to make visits.
"I was pleased and honored that Dr. Kersh asked me to help him install the exhibition for his annual 'lecture & art' series this past Nov. 18” said local artist Cynthia Tom.
When she got the call from Kersh she dropped everything on her schedule to help.
Tom was among the artists from the very first event back in 2004. She keeps in contact with Kersh and views his approach as groundbreaking.
Tom feels Dr. Kersh and his staff's vision is a vital and very important outreach that enhances not only the community but the art of medicine. "My relationships to the doctors as a sales rep, and as an artist were strong," she said.
Tom noted that while her rapport with the doctors, like Dr. Kersh has been good, "it takes years to build steady and strong relationships," she said.
And, after being laid off from her sales job last year, Tom feels her continued invitation to exhibit is a testament to the friendship she built over the years.
"Doctors today in hospitals and clinics everywhere are so busy," Tom said, "because of all the administrative details involved such as insurance companies, policy issues, etc."
"The time with patients is regimented so that makes time with staff and any outsiders very limited," she said.
St. Luke’s serves a major portion of the City’s population. Located in one of the busiest sections of San Francisco, most of St. Luke’s outreach is to the working class and low income residents.
Kersh was aware of the community's needs from his previous work at San Francisco General Hospital in the 1970's and at the Mission Neighborhood Health Center.
"Many of the people of this community who come to St. Luke's have less access to quality and specialized health care," he said. Kersh noted the high rates of diabetes, hypertension and other conditions.
"The severity of heart disease and things contributing to it, such as poor diet, and so forth, is greater here than at the Pacific Campus on Webster Street," said Kersh.
The Pacific Campus is the main campus for CPMC in San Francisco. Kersh worked there before setting up the clinic at St. Luke’s. The main campus of CPMC is near the Pacific Heights area, one of the most upscale parts of the City. Kersh emphasized why it is so important for his clinic to be in The Mission District.
"Many of the patients I see here at St. Luke's don't have ready access to primary care physicians," said Kersh.
Kersh then noted how important it is that people receive good primary care - annual check-ups, etc. Kersh, like others in the medical field are concerned at the declining ranks of primary care physicians.
Kersh fears that if this trend continues the critical need for primary care physicians will only add more heavily to the burden in our national health care system. Which some experts say is in crisis on the brink of implosion, yet that is another story all it own.
Kersh believes that more incentive needs to be provided to attract and sustain young doctors in the primary care areas of medicine. This is one of the reasons why he is dedicated to the work at St. Luke’s.
The art work brings the community into the clinic and helps the clinic reach out to the community.
The variety of work displayed at the clinic moves from the abstract and surreal to the whimsical. Some works are paintings or photographs while others lean toward sculpture or "mixed media" like Francisco Soto's "Quetzalcoatl Mito Historia."
"Some people like it, said Dorantes. “And, some love it, some people think it strange and others just see it as different," she said. Dorantes has been an administrative assistant to Kersh at the Cardiology clinic almost since it opened.
Lectures for each year have a theme and the art displayed often tries to coincide with that theme.
Kersh is pleased that his little venture has grown. "I encourage donations by donating to the event myself," said Kersh. "It is like the old saying, you have to spend money to make money," he said.
Dr. Kersh is happy when people like a painting. He gave Dorantes one of Cynthia Tom’s paintings. The painting is on the wall above her desk.
Kersh is pleased with how all has turned out. "We have created a setting that people like to visit and where patients are uplifted and feel comfortable," he said.
Despite his demanding schedule of patents and lots of paper work Kersh is looking forward to next year's 'lecture & art' event. "Yes, planning for next year starts now," he said. "I buy and donate art and I encourage others to do the same," Kersh said.
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