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Smithsonian's Healing Garden Quilts on Display

ANN ARBOR, MI - In the era of renewed interest in natural therapies, cancer chemotherapies are considered by many to be harsh products of modern medicine. But, in fact, a large number of these drugs derive from both common and exotic plants found throughout the world.

Now the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center's Healing Arts Program is offering patients and the public the opportunity to explore the "Healing Garden" - an exhibit of 25 quilts capturing the connection between nature and medicine and commemorating the life of a Northern Virginian woman who loved to quilt.

Lenore Ann Parham lost her 4-year battle with ovarian cancer in 1997. Her husband, Dr. Walter Parham, proposed the novel idea of merging her art form with his own work in botanical research into a unique quilt exhibit.

"I just kept thinking if people saw these plants and related to the beauty, they might feel chemotherapy is a natural thing and less intrusive," says Parham. "That would be so much better than thinking that the drugs come from a great big drum at a chemical plant."

A geologist by professional, Parham did his own botanical research with help from the National Cancer Institute and identified more than 20 plants that are in use or being studied for use in fighting cancer. He then went to his wife's quilting group, the Northern Virginia Quilters, and asked them to create interpretive quilts featuring these plants.

"The Healing Gardens quilt show serves a dual purpose," says Suzanne Mahler, director of the Healing Arts Program at the Cancer Center. "It demonstrates the relationship between nature and chemotherapy in the fight against cancer. In addition, it helps us provide a more patient-friendly healthcare environment in the Cancer Center."

The Healing Arts quilt exhibit, made possible by the Smithsonian Museums, is touring the United States under the auspices of the Society for the Arts in Healthcare. The quilts are on display 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, in the new Survivors Art Gallery on Level B1 of the Center, located at 1500 East Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor. The public is welcome.

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