Cassidy White, Miami University class of 2022, graduated with Latin and Departmental Honors and obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Pre-Medical Studies and Gerontology, minoring in Medical Sociology. Currently, Cassidy is a first-year medical student at the University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Osteopathic Medicine. Her hope is to become a geriatric physician, and work with patients in rural areas.
From a young age, I was always interested in pursuing medicine, but was unsure of what I wanted to specialize in. When I started at Miami, I majored in Medical Laboratory Science, but quickly learned that was not the path for me. Things were too sterile and isolated, and once I began working in the field, that would not change. I looked for opportunities and experiences that could lead me to something I enjoyed more. I found that joy while working with older adults in Opening Minds through Art (OMA).
I first joined OMA as a freshman (before COVID) when a mentor of mine from an organization on campus recommended it and I absolutely loved it. Every Monday, I would go to Westover in Hamilton, OH and volunteer with older adults. I worked with a woman who used to paint landscapes professionally.
Due to the progression of her dementia, she couldn’t hold a brush and was disinterested in abstract art. On the first day of sessions, she didn’t want anything to do with the art project. Eventually, she agreed to participate. I held the paint brush as she guided my hand. I wanted to give her as much control in the project as possible. Knowing that she may not have received a lot of 1-on-1 attention, I wanted her to do as she pleased during this time to bring a bit of joy and interaction into her day. After a few weeks, she became more interested in the projects. As she worked, I encouraged her to try different tools and techniques. Over the semester, I worked to build her confidence and spark her joy for painting again. I was thrilled to see her passionate about her work.
These instances, and other moments like them, are what led me to the Gerontology program at Miami. I changed my major to Gerontology and continued OMA into my senior year working online (due to COVID restrictions) with older adults to learn more about art as well as music, poetry, and story making.
Through the years, I have had the privilege of working with many older adults living with dementia and loved learning more about them, their stories, and giving them some attention and control over aspects of their life. I have had the privilege of getting to know so many skilled and talented people in OMA, many of whom do have dementia. It goes to show that we can’t judge a book by its cover. My time with OMA has shown me the importance of autonomy and interaction with individuals on a personal level, as well as how intergenerational relationships are reciprocal. Not only did my art partners learn from me, but I learned from them as well.