Wilmot Gardens

I drove by this area every day to and from
home, and I was just curious what is it because it was sort of like a jungle. And, when I became dean of the College of
Medicine in 2002, I became even more interested because I realized that this was the only
remaining green space on the Health Science Center campus. Talking to some people, I thought we should
restore it. We decided that the gardens should not just
be a place to come sit and enjoy the outdoors, but in fact reflect the activities of the
buildings that were all around us. So, that was research, education, and patient
care. We were noticing that a lot of people were
coming to the gardens to get away from the stressors that are happening around these
gardens, and so we thought it was time to make that experience more purposeful, more
intentional, and that’s when we started the Therapeutic Horticulture program. I have a little brother who had a traumatic
brain injury when he was little, and so growing up with that experience I think I always recognized
the importance and the value of people with special circumstances. We are giving people the opportunity to build
up their self-esteem, and their sense of self confidence, and self-worth. So many of the folk that we’ve been working
with because of their disability or their disease or whatever issue their struggling
with, they felt that they haven’t been contributing to society, and that makes them feel bad about
themselves. So, I feel like it’s my job to help them
understand the value of what they’re doing here in the greenhouse, and that their work
really has meaning. And, we also try to provide a community here
so people can really feel like they’re part of this space, part of this place, Wilmot
Gardens this greenhouse, and I think building or rebuilding a sense of community for some
of our participants is also very important. I think that a lot of times when people are
struggling with mental illness, or they’re struggling with a physical disability, or
any other life trauma or event, that connecting with a stranger that may not be the same age
as them, or may not have the same experience as them, or may not have anything in common
with them, is a sort of experience that is really valuable. And, the horticulture therapy program
in particular is so unique because it connects students from the University with people in
the community to build connections over something of a third party, like plants. And so it’s really a unique opportunity
to be able to have that experience. Hopefully one day I can become a health care
professional that incorporates nature and plants into the healthcare setting and practice.

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