July 20, 2022 — Bill Slayton, M.D. ’92, can often be found singing a cheerful greeting when he enters a room, writing songs to convey critical lessons in a way students will actually remember, jamming with patients or even performing for them and their families with one of his a cappella groups.
To Slayton, the division chief of pediatric hematology and oncology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, music is an important healing tool to share with students, colleagues and especially young patients. He believes music helps people grow, protects against the emotional toll of cancer work and treatment and fosters a special bond between patient and physician. It’s a lesson he learned long ago as a medical student from his mentor, John Graham-Pole, M.D.
Graham-Pole was not only a pediatric oncologist and professor but also a poet. He served as a faculty adviser for The Hippocampus, a student newspaper Slayton started at the College of Medicine that quickly filled with creative writing, and he co-founded UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine, or AIM, in 1990 with fellow clinician Mary Rockwood Lane, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN.
AIM, a multidisciplinary organization focused on transforming health care environments through the arts, was one of the first programs of its kind in the U.S. In the 32 years since its start, it has grown into an international leader in the field of arts in health care. The program was recently featured on PBS NewsHour’s arts and culture series, Canvas, for its innovative approach.