Art exhibition “To Really See” opens eyes to perception of medication

For most people, the topic of medication is avoided. Paul Ranelli, Ph.D., M.S., is working to change this conversation.

As a professor at the College of Pharmacy, Ranelli teaches students the social side of medication, including cost, personal and public perception, previous experiences and physician-patient-pharmacist relationships.

In most cases, “medications get forgotten as part of the social fabric of health, unless cost comes up,” Ranelli said. To bring focus on medication outside of cost, Ranelli turned to art, which would allow patients to openly tell the story of their relationship with medication.

Ranelli first debuted in visual arts with his play, “Go Ask Alice.” A collaboration with playwright Syl Jones and Mixed Blood Theater, the play discussed medication-use experience. Ranelli wanted to further explore the social role of medication in people’s lives and began a new project, “To Really See,” a partnership with Jes Reyes and Spectrum ArtWorks.

Paintings capture the artist’s perception of their prescriptions, whether good or bad. One painting shows a pill alongside breakfast items — an essential part of the day that requires little thought to complete. In another painting, the artist portrays himself in knots, the pill on the end of his tongue. These are a few of the paintings in the exhibit that Ranelli hopes will open the conversation about the relationship between the medication and its user.

“The relationship medication users have with their medicines is important to know for caregivers and health professionals alike,” Ranelli said.

By learning how patients perceive the medicine they take, health care professionals can foster cooperation in future therapies.

Importance is shifted on the relationship between the health care professional and the patient, when medication is equally as important in the story. Ranelli hopes that the exhibition will “give … a different frame of reference to see medications and talk about them outside of an office or pharmacy.”

Following the exhibition, Ranelli will join the closing night panel discussion. He hopes the panel will foster an environment where there can be an open discussion about medication use.

“Talking about anything, being transparent, honest, respectful, and recognizing human strengths and vulnerabilities helps reduce stigma in general and in mental health specifically,” Ranelli said.

For those interested in viewing the exhibition, the dates and locations are below:

Cargill Hall, Hennepin County Library- Minneapolis Central: August 10 – September 27, 2017

Closing Night Panel Discussion: Wednesday, September 27 | 6 p.m. | Pohlad Hall, 2nd Floor

St. Luke’s Hospital- Duluth: October 2017 – April 2018

Bio-Medical Library- University of Minnesota, Twin Cities: December 2017 – April 2018

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