Parkinson's Awareness: The healing power of art

The art installation in the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Clinic at Baylor College of Medicine might be more than a year old but its bursts of color and energy haven’t faded.

Local photographer Robert Flatt gave more than 30 nature photographs, taken in Houston and around the world, to the clinic.

Flatt’s goal was to create an interesting and natural setting for patients. Flatt can attest to the importance of a relaxed and approachable when it comes to doctor’s offices.

That’s because he too is a patient of the PDMDC.

“Our patient care involves not only treating the illness, but also creating a space for those who come to our clinic to feel welcome and able to heal,” said Dr. Joseph Jankovic, founder and director of the PDMDC. “We are very thankful to Mr. Flatt for allowing us and those with neurological issues to enjoy his work, and to show others a different way to work through an illness.”

This month, Parkinson’s Awareness Month, take a few minutes to look through Flatt’s photographs and learn more about Parkinson’s Disease and the PDMDC at BCM.

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How it began

Flatt was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1999. After his diagnosis Flatt decided to take a class at the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies at Rice University. That is when he discovered the healing power of art.

“My diagnosis was the start of my photography career,” says Flatt. “I found a new way to relax, enjoy and continue to contribute to life.”

Once he became a patient of Jankovic, a friendship was born and Flatt began giving him personal gifts of his prints.

“I wanted to share with others what has brought me great joy, as well as show my thanks to what this center has given me,” Flatt said.

Giving thanks

The diagnosis of any disease comes with a flood of emotions. For Flatt, he chose to view his diagnosis as a gift.

“I’m thankful for Parkinson’s disease. It gave me the gift of time, to appreciate what I had left. It gave me the gift of photography and a life-long friend in Jankovic,” he said.

His pictures, whether they are of flowers on an Indian Ocean island, cranes in Japan or even honeybees in his own backyard in Houston, are a way for Flatt to celebrate life.

Sharing life

With the help of Dr. Eli Mizrahi, professor and chair of neurology at BCM, and generous donors, Flatt’s photographs are now permanent installations in the lobby and clinic rooms of the PDMDC.

“Parkinson’s disease and photography have opened my eyes to the wonderful things life offers, and you don’t have to travel the world. It is in your own back yard.”

-By Graciela Gutierrez

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