Featured Site: Westminster Village

May 1, 2024

In 2016, Rachel Witt and two of her colleagues at Westminster Village became certified OMA facilitators. They have worked closely alongside Pursue University for almost 7 years. Throughout their partnership, the two organizations have found OMA to be extremely impactful to both the residents at Westminster and the college students. 

Westminster’s pilot OMA program began in 2016, initially training a handful of Westminster administrators and the clinical team. Rachel says, “that was key to getting up and running quickly because they saw the benefits firsthand and received the positive feedback from residents and families. They gave us remarkable support and it opened a lot of doors.”

Once students started volunteering, many were engineering majors who joined because they wanted to enhance their people skills. As the program progressed, biomedical engineering students started volunteering, then undergraduate students who were interested in health professions. Rachel said, “it feels especially purposeful to me to be a small part in training future healthcare professionals to see the PERSON and not just the disease.”

Since 2016, Westminster Village has trained over 350 young people as OMA partners. One student stated  “I truly believe this will be an overall life-changing experience” and an OMA artist stated “This is the start of a long friendship.” 

Rachel commented on how the site had to overcome the set-back in programming after the COVID-19 Pandemic. She said, “We worked hard to rebuild it through any and all avenues, but were struggling to come up to our pre-COVID numbers. It took many years of seed planting from one of our retired facilitators that finally resulted in an opportunity to work with a professor in Health and Human Services at Purdue to develop and launch a class that incorporates OMA and includes an onsite component. It is, surprising to all of us, now a part of the science/anatomy curriculum.”

Westminster Valley’s breakthrough came when they connected with Lisa Hilliard, a clinical professor at Purdue, who is passionate about teaching her students to be better humans and practitioners. During the Fall 2023 semester, Purdue developed a class dedicated to “Dissecting Dementia” that gives students the opportunity to work directly with people living with dementia through weekly OMA art sessions.

The “Dissecting Dementia” course has continued into 2024 and has seen high registration numbers. Students are very eager to join for a wide range of reasons, which is a prime example of how intergenerational relationships can impact both students and residents alike.

Purdue University published a press release highlighting the partnership between the course and Westminster. 

When asked what advice she would give to new facilitators, Rachel said, “We have learned that every minute spent in training and coaching is worthwhile. The better prepared the partners are, the better the experience for both partner and artist.”

Congratulations to Westminster Village and Purdue University!

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