The Foundation
for Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Bunny Burson

Bunny Burson’s career in the arts has taken her through the art galleries of the world, the halls of political power…and the bedsides of hospital patients.

Bunny first connected the dots between arts and healing when helping a friend through cancer treatments nearly 30 years ago. A trained artist, Bunny saw how visual art and music helped take her friend’s mind away from the disease.

“Arts and healthcare resonates with everyone: patients, families, faculty, and staff,” says Bunny. We all have had experience with illness and loss, and the arts have such a positive effect on our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. It’s a universal way to heal.”

As coordinator of cultural enrichment at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Bunny developed a course for medical students on art for children in hospitals. “The children working with medical students saw their doctor as multi-dimensional,” says Bunny. “The medical students saw their patients as more than chart numbers. It humanized everyone, opening up communication between doctor and patient.”

After their careers took Bunny and her husband Charles to Washington, D.C.—where Bunny served as executive director of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities—Bunny and Charles began a new chapter of their lives in St. Louis. Bunny reached out to Barnes-Jewish Hospital to get involved with arts and healthcare once again.

“I knew the importance of an academic medical center through my work at Vanderbilt—I found one of the best in the nation right her in St. Louis,” says Bunny.

Bunny and Charles not only made a gift to The Foundation to get our Arts + Healthcare program off the ground, but Bunny also became an invaluable volunteer to the emerging program.

The Bursons believe that the creative spirit is in everyone, and a place like Barnes-Jewish is truly a community of artists. “Healthcare professionals are not only artists in the delivery of their care, but so many are painters, musicians, poets, and writers as well,” says Bunny. “The many people who are part of Barnes-Jewish every day can add a different dimension to the experience through the arts.”

Excerpted from “Arts and Healthcare” in Cornerstones Winter 2007

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