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Art and tranquility to the Emergency Department

Photography of beaches in MA and RIThose who enter Tufts Medical Center’s Emergency Department (ED) will find the once blank, pale walls now graced with serene, framed images of sea- and landscapes from across New England, courtesy of Emory Petrack, MD, FAAP, FACEP, Chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at Tufts Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Emory Petrack received a grant from the Medical Center for this endeavor that combines his love for medicine with his passion for photography. “My main objective with this project was to reduce the stress level for those entering the ED and to help support the healing process for patients and their families, while also creating a more relaxed environment for our valued staff members,” Dr. Petrack said. 

Guests sitting in our ED waiting area will see two large photographs adorning the walls. These images of the sea from beaches in Wellfleet and Provincetown, Massachusetts are meant to lift our spirits during difficult moments.

Three additional photographs can be found on the Emergency Department entrance walls featuring Acadia National Park, Maine Herring Cove, Provincetown and Cahoon Hollow Beach, Wellfleet

As a member of the hospital’s Patient Experience team, Dr. Petrack saw an opportunity to use photography to help allay some of the anxiety patients and families feel when they come to the Emergency Department. “It’s a stressful time for people; they don’t’ know what to expect. I thought New England imagery would help to calm people as they enter.”

A physician's artwork in the emergency department hallwayAnd by all accounts his hunch was right. Recently he heard this from an ED nurse, “When things get tough in the middle of the night, I like to take a break and look at one of the images for a few minutes – it helps to make me feel more calm and comfortable.” 

An admirer of Ansel Adams, the 20th Century American landscape photographer and environmentalist, Dr. Petrack has studied photography since he was a youngster, even spending a summer break teaching a photography course while attending a flying camp as a teenager. “Photography is the integration of art and technical expertise,” he says, “Visualizing what you want to show people and being able to see what others may not - and then to translate that into a photograph, that is the joy of the craft,” he shares.

As for next steps, Dr. Petrack hopes to extend the use of photography art to other areas of the Medical Center where it can make a difference in the lives of our patients, their families and our employees.