When art therapy major Maureen Dunne '15 landed an internship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute it was a full-circle experience - it was an opportunity she had set her sights on since she was fourteen years old.
During her freshman year in high school, Dunne's older brother was diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancerous tumor of the muscles that is attached to the bones. He was treated at Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund Clinic. Her experience watching her brother go through treatments inspired her to someday work with cancer patients.
While in high school, Dunne enjoyed both her art and psychology classes and wanted to put the two together. As a senior, she stumbled upon art therapy as a major while researching colleges and universities; she knew it was the ideal path for her career goals.
Currently, Dunne's brother is in remission and goes back to the clinic for regular checkups.
"Working at Dana-Farber is my way of giving back to them, because they've given so much to my family," Dunne said.
At Dana-Farber, Dunne is a volunteer in the Creative Arts Center. The center is an open studio format where patients can come and go as they please. It's a complimentary service for patients and family members, open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Patients can come to the center during their downtime before and/or after appointments.
From yarn and ribbon to beads and watercolors, the room is filled with materials.
"I don't think I've seen so many arts and crafts supplies in my life," Dunne said.
Her internship has two parts. For one, Dunne's job is to market the center with other volunteers to spread the word of its existence. She said many patients don't know they can take advantage of the space. Dunne helps post information on TV screens and flyers around the building.
The other part of the internship is creative- and therapy-related. When there are no patients, Dunne researches and creates projects for people to do if they don't know what they want to make while in the center.
"I'm really enjoying it. It's a little different than I imagined. When we don't get many people coming in, I get to sit down and engage with one person at a time - it's nice," she said.
More often than not, the Emmanuel senior said the patients who come in are very energetic; some arrive stressed out and come to the center just to talk and not participate in art making.
"It's amazing to see how people come in and they could have the weight of the whole world on their shoulders, but they're so upbeat. They're very resilient. They're the real fighters," she said.
Emmanuel's psychology and art therapy courses have taught Dunne the different ways she can talk to patients in the center. She added that the courses have even helped her with conversations in her own personal life. Dunne is learning about reflective statements, as well as gauging which questions are and are not appropriate to ask. She credits her classes for giving her the confidence to work with patients and build connections with Dana-Farber employees.
"I learned you're not to assume anything about anyone's artwork," she said. "You just have them talk about it."
Dunne learned about the internship opportunity through Emily Gould, a lecturer in the art department. One student previously volunteered at the center and Gould recommended it to Dunne because she knew she wanted to work with oncology patients.
As part of her requirement for her internship experience, Dunne will do a case study on a patient or group, which will be part of her thesis.
"It's more about my experience," said Dunne about her thesis and senior studio project. "We all kind of see a bit of ourselves in the people who we're working with. I've been able to draw connections to my own personal life with patients I've worked with."
After graduation in May, Dunne hopes to attend graduate school. Her eyes are set on getting a master's degree in Art Therapy at Lesley University. But as an undergraduate student and an Emmanuel tour guide, Dunne highly recommends the College's program.
"I tell them to come here. We have a very solid art therapy program. I love the small community of Emmanuel and I think a lot of other people enjoy it too," she said.
The internship experience has given Dunne the chance to do what she has been studying for the last four years, and she plans to continue the internship into the spring semester.
Most importantly, Dunne has learned how tough it can be working at Dana-Farber. Dunne considers her family's situation a good one. Her brother had cancer, was treated and is in remission; however, she knows many people do not and will not have that same experience and outcome. This internship has taught her that it's OK to be sad, but to "leaving everything at work" to avoid getting burnt out. She said it's a good life skill.
"This internship is extremely valuable. I'm really glad I'm in an area where I have all these opportunities," Dunne said. "I'm so glad I did it. It's rewarding."