The 'Arts in Mind Project'—Multi-Disciplinary Synergies in Education
A Novel Program Concept, by Gary D. Paige, MD, PhD
Personal Background Relevant to the 'Arts + Academics Project'
An intense lifelong engagement with the fine arts began during my first decade and focused on music, particularly jazz and classical forms. My instrument was the trombone. An early trajectory was highlighted by attending the Interlochen Arts Academy for 4 years of high school. Immersed in music for several hours a day in parallel with outstanding academics, and surrounded by colleagues engaged in all arts modalities, this was a melting pot of multi-disciplinary life. Photography was a second artistic focus, and I formed a club in that discipline that later became a program and major. I also spent two summers studying anthropology at a college near home in California that included participation in an archaeological dig. This proved sufficiently entrancing that I began college as an anthropology major, though soon switched to biology and ultimately neuroscience (sensory-motor neurophysiology) and medicine as a career. However, a detour after an early graduation from college entailed nearly a year in technology development, working for an industrial process-control firm to automate the production of galvanized steel. This entailed product installations in steel mills in the Midwest. I continued as a consultant during my first year of medical/graduate school at U. Chicago (MD, PhD in Pharm-Phys.). Residency in Ophthalmology at UCSF was accompanied by an important research initiative at NASA-Ames Research nearby that ultimately led to a NASA-Cosmos space-flight project. Afterward I joined the faculty at Washington University in Otolaryngology (secondary appointments in Neurology, Ophthalmology, and Anatomy & Neurobiology). In 1990 I was recruited to the UR in Neurology, and 8 years later to Chair of NBA (secondary appointments in Neurology, Ophthalmology, Otolaryngology, Biomedical Engineering, Brain and Cognitive Science, and the Center for Visual Science).
This path should leave little doubt as to my diversity of interest and experience across many disciplines and over many years. Six departmental faculty appointments at the UR across three Schools amplify this attribute. Further, I have maintained involvement in the arts. My personal and passionate arts outlet shifted from music to photography long ago, and this includes presentations (here and in NYC) and contest successes. At this juncture, I am increasingly drawn toward my primordial interests that blend the arts and academics. I hope to replicate for others the synergy that I experienced and continue to hold dear. A guiding principle is inscribed prominently above the stage of the main auditorium at Interlochen, and reads:
Dedicated to the Promotion of World Friendship through the Universal Language of the Arts.
Personal Skills/Achievements Relevant to Implementing the 'Arts + Academics Project'
New skills and/or reformulations of existing ones are needed to achieve success for this project. However, there is nothing unfamiliar with the essential means of developing collaborative ties across disciplines and institutional boundaries. The following selected examples are useful as 'preliminary data':
- As a Unit Chief in Neurology: a) recruited faculty with unique attributes in clinical practice and scientific research ('sensory-motor neurology'); b) developed a novel residency sub-program for MD-PhD graduates to pursue combined residency-postdoctoral fellowships in neurology-neurobiology.
- As Chair of Neurobiology & Anatomy: recruited faculty to enrich the sensory-motor motif at different levels of inquiry (i.e. genes to perception), in part through building a robust and committed secondary faculty to augment the community.
- Created and directed the Center for Navigation and Communication Sciences—a collaborative group of faculty across many departments and Schools with common interests in the senses of the inner ear. A P-30 Core-Center from NIDCD (~$300K/y) persisted for 12 years until the NIDCD terminated the program.
- Implemented, and continue to direct, a research program funded by a local foundation (~$250K/y): the Schmitt Program on Integrative Brain Research, which supports novel multi-disciplinary and inter-faculty research collaborations, visiting faculty, trainees in new inter-lab projects, summer student research, and multi-disciplinary symposia. The latest symposium was on Dystonia in Musicians, complete with scientific, clinical, and musical presentations and performances, organized by Dr. Jon Mink. This exemplifies a form of Arts+Academics activity that was extraordinarily well received.
- Initiated a bimonthly NBA 'Faculty Club' that provides a collegiate forum in which one faculty member hosts and presents a topic of interest (research progress or direction) in an informal setting over dinner. Roughly 18 faculty, including secondaries across several departments, join these events and share costs.
- Aided substantially in the initiation of the Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) in light of the engineering presence within our sensory-motor community. An initial collaboration with Dr. Kevin Parker and then Dr. Rick Waugh to bind neuroscience and engineering at the UR ('neuro-engineering') led to faculty recruitment into BME and NBA, given the attractive community in place. This was essential in securing successful support from the Whitaker Foundation in its final years, and allowed a very new department to attract outstanding young faculty in an area of natural integration, and then expand.
- At the national level, I was elected the first President of the Association of Medical School Neuroscience Department Chairs following the founder's term and guided the process of formulating legal and operational structure that remains ongoing.
- Served a variety of review and leadership roles for the NIH, including study-section and numerous special versions of them across institutes (NIDCD, NINDS, NEI, NIA). I also served as Chair for many, as well as workshop Chair or participant (NIDCD, NIA) related to Institute programs, strategic planning, and intramural review. I have performed similar roles for NASA and NSF.
- At the International level, I served on the Board of the Society for the Neural Control of Movement for many years before election to a sequence of Officer roles leading to President, ending the term in 2015. These roles have, over the years, entailed initiating the development arm of the Society in support of its scholarship program, implementing its current legal status and management organization, formulating the yearly scientific program of the annual conference, and identifying/securing the yearly conference site.
Initiating and directing the 'Arts in Mind (AIM) Project' reflects a logical extension of my background. I continue with other career roles, primarily including that of a physician-scientist and clinical lab director related to balance and oculomotor disorders, and ongoing teaching roles at the medical, graduate, and residency levels of instruction.
For a more detailed accounting of Dr. Paige's accomplishments in medicine and research, visit his URMC eCV page.