Allison Walker, instructor of English, has always known that creative expression has a long evolutionary history and myriad therapeutic benefits. As a poet herself, she has experienced the healing power of verse firsthand. In 2011, her interest in the arts as an evolutionary adaptation led her to the emerging clinical field of narrative medicine, a person-centered approach to medical care that seeks to build empathic relationships between doctors and patients through narrative, and there she found a way to transform poetry into medicine. Inspired by the groundbreaking work of Dr. Rita Charon at Columbia University, Walker founded HPU LifeLines, a program designed to unlock the inner poets of elder adults, particularly those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, by engaging in communal poetry writing to aid memory, reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, increase immune system function, reduce chronic pain, and elevate overall physical and psychological wellbeing. The program has expanded into after school programs for at-risk kids in the High Point community. Walker believes that all of us will, at some point in our lives, face medical challenges that narrative medicine can help us navigate more effectively. In an age of skyrocketing healthcare costs, this prescription is virtually free, if only we can harness its power.
Expertise: narrative medicine, medical humanities, literary Darwinism, arts therapy for Alzheimer’s and dementia