William Doan, professor in the Penn State School of Theatre, will serve as an artist-in-residence in the College of Nursing for the 2018–19 academic year in an effort to infuse artistic representation into the science of nursing.
The unique collaboration between the College of Nursing and the College of Arts and Architecture builds upon Doan’s creation of performance art that explores palliative care—a specialized treatment that provides relief from the symptoms and stress of serious illness and trauma for individuals and their families.
“Having spent the last several years making graphic and performance work about traumatic brain injury, grief, loss and living with anxiety and depression, the opportunity to collaborate with nursing researchers such as Nikki Hill and Lisa Kitko is a profound moment for me,” Doan said. “I know it will be a catalyst for new and productive dialogues between art and science.”
Doan’s acclaimed solo performances of “Drifting” and “A Brief Anatomy of My Anxiety” were the genesis of the collaboration, which Hill, assistant professor of nursing, said will hopefully lead to a better understanding of the subtle nuances of cognitive problems that inform and guide patient care.
“Drifting” blends live performance with drawings and film sequences to take the audience inside the intimate experience of an artist’s effort to make meaning out of trauma. “A Brief Anatomy of My Anxiety” offers an adventure into the many ways Doan lives with his anxiety and embraces it as his companion.
The collaboration aims to build upon the success of Doan’s performance art by creating new ways to understand the earliest symptoms of cognitive decline through storytelling, according to Hill.
“The best nursing care requires more than just evidence-based practice, but also the empathy and compassion necessary to best meet the needs of each patient and their family,” Hill said. “Bill's appointment in the College of Nursing will allow us to delve more deeply into the patient experience and also to consider how artistic practice may help nurses cope with challenges such as caregiver strain and burden.”
Doan came to Penn State in 2008 as the associate dean for administration, research and graduate studies for the College of Arts and Architecture. In 2013, he returned to the faculty, and served as director of the School of Theatre during the 2017–18 academic year. Active in professional associations, he served as president of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education from 2011 to 2013, and was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre in April 2018.