Arts in Medicine Official Florida Representative For National Day of Listening


Barbara Esrig writes an oral history while interviewing Thomas Mitchell

On the day after Thanksgiving each year, people across America record interviews with one another to celebrate Story Corp’s National Day of Listening. In 2010, Shands Arts in Medicine program in Gainesville became the official state representative in Florida for the event. In honor of the National Day of Listening and National Arts and Health Month, Writer-in-Residence, Barbara Esrig will create oral histories with patients, families, and staff.

Since February 1999, Barbara has interviewed hundreds of people at Shands Hospital. A former nurse, Barbara was in a serious car accident in 1997 that left her hospitalized with 164 broken bones. The experience helped her realize the importance of being heard and treated like a human being, “not just a bunch of broken bones.” Two years later, she was back in the hospital as a Writer-in-Residence with Shands Arts in Medicine program, recording oral histories.

She started doing oral histories as a way to honor someone’s life. The hospital can be a busy place and people often don’t have time to listen. Doctors, nurses, and counselors in the hospital know Barbara and her work. They often ask her to speak with patients, who Barbara says, “just need to be listened to. Everyone needs to be listened to.”

Barbara Esrig interviews Kathy Castle for an oral history project.

As part of her program, throughout the Fall of 2010, Barbara interviewed members of Madeline Austin’s Art In Motion group, a visual arts class for people with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders. Barbara asked participants in the program about their lives before their diagnosis as well as their experience coping with the challenges of Parkinson’s disease and how art has played a role in their healing process.