Medical Humanities Students Bring Visual and Healing Arts to Life with Quilt

  • Full-Size Image: Avance quilt
    Avance letter quilt, courtesy photo.
  • Full-Size Image: Sue Benner and the Medical Humanities class
    Sue Benner and the Medical Humanities class, courtesy photo.
Sept. 22, 2014

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Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

WACO, Texas (Sept. 22, 2014) – This past spring, a class of Baylor University medical humanities students sewed their passion for the healing arts into a service project that was anything but patchwork.

Proposed by Linda Bostwick, CRN, MN, Baylor University staff nurse practitioner, the students of the Visual Arts and Healing course worked together with fabric artist Sue Benner to execute an idea that would benefit Avance Waco, a nonprofit organization that focuses on early childhood development and parent education. The class was presented with its task: create a quilt.

Together with Leah Force, department of art lecturer in the College of Arts & Sciences, and Mary Ruth Smith, Ph.D., professor of art in the College of Arts & Sciences, students went to work.

“In the beginning the students were apprehensive because most of them would be using needle and thread to embroider, sewing machines for sewing, in addition to designing and drawing – all skills new to most of the students,” Smith said.

Students made visits to the center in East Waco in order to observe the environment. Based on their observations, they partnered with Benner, Force and Smith to brainstorm about theme, size and location of the quilt. After deliberating, they decided on a “serape” theme, based on the brightly colored blanket-like shawls worn in Mexico. Each student then was responsible for designing a quilt square that included a letter of the alphabet.

“The bold colors and whimsical handling of the alphabet will undoubtedly draw the eyes of children and adults alike, allowing them to experience a moment of playfulness in an unexpected place,” Force said.

“The collaborative effort that produced this quilt is just one example of work that can and does make a difference in the lives of others. In its new home, the quilt will enrich the visual environment of those who visit Avance Waco.”

The project allowed students to explore the effect of art on the environment, Bostwick. Through participating, students learned how to effectively use the same motor skills applicable to a health care profession and extend them into therapeutic arts, “a discovery that will provide a healthy outlet for the rest of their lives,” she said.

“To me, the goal of medical humanities is to educate medically minded people in a way that emphasizes the importance of humane and holistic care of humans. Instead of trying to diagnose, we hope to help the Avance community by offering support and providing them with a physical reminder of the strength of their mission,” said Baylor senior Erin Witter.

Currently Force and Smith are designing slats for the quilt so that it can be hung at Avance later this fall.

Baylor University is the only national university to offer a medical humanities major at an undergraduate level. The program has been available for four years and was originally designed with components similar to a course at Harvard Medical School.

For more information, contact Linda Bostwick 254-710-4984,

by Sarah Czerwinski, student newswriter, (254) 710-6805


Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The university provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 15,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating university in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 11 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.


The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 24 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit

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