Certified Facilitator Spotlight: Pooja Lalwani

Today we spotlight Pooja Lalwani, TimeSlips Certified Facilitator and undergraduate student at Duke University studying biology, music, and sustainability. We asked Pooja some questions about how TimeSlips has affected her personally, as a student, and as an intern at the Nasher Museum.

Pooja Lalwani is an undergraduate junior at Duke University studying biology, music, and sustainability. Her love for music came from 11 years of experience playing the piano, in which she personally found just how prominent the intersection between art and healthcare is! In her free time, she loves to go on hikes, listen to music, or take a nap. After graduation, she hopes to attend medical school.

Let’s start off with a whimsical Beautiful Question: If you could wave a magic wand and have any food item in endless supply, what would you like it to be? My favorite food is burritos, so if I could wave a magic wand and have one right in front of me, I would love that. When I was younger, my dad and I would go to Taco Bell every Saturday afternoon and order burritos! 

How did you first learn about TimeSlips Creative Storytelling? In fall 2020, I took a service-learning course, Artists in Healthcare, at Duke. This class was extremely enlightening and eye-opening. Students in this class were trained under the TimeSlips program and had weekly sessions with someone who is experiencing dementia. Each session would involve beautiful questions and storytelling based on images. 

What did your experience with TimeSlips do to help you engage with elders differently, if at all? How did it impact your life last year? Two years ago, my grandmother passed away with dementia. Seeing her get frustrated at how much she was forgetting things was extremely heartbreaking, and I felt helpless being so far away. I felt like I didn’t know the right things to say or do. I wish I could have used a beautiful question when talking to her on the phone. Because of TimeSlips, I now know the importance of imagination and how to approach conversations with those who have dementia. 

I’ve learned to be a better listener through TimeSlips. Listening to and echoing people’s responses is important no matter what in order to make sure they are being heard and that they feel their voice is important. I’m grateful that TimeSlips has emphasized that. I felt really connected to my experience with TimeSlips and looked for opportunities to continue engaging with this similar movement and intersection between the arts and healthcare. So, soon after being exposed to the TimeSlips method, I joined the Reflections Program at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.

I understand you are currently an intern with the Nasher Museum. Can you tell me a little bit about what your role is for your internship? This semester, I am continuing my role as a gallery guide for the Reflections Program and doing some “behind the scenes” work for my internship. The Reflections Program at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University was started in 2014 to support those who are experiencing dementia or memory loss. Tours led by gallery guides follow a theme with accompanying pieces of art in our exhibitions or collection galleries to facilitate conversation. Besides helping lead the tours, I’ve helped make virtual tours and discussed some of the TimeSlips techniques with the Reflections gallery guides for professional development. Currently, I am helping coordinate a partnership between Nasher, TimeSlips, and a Duke student organization. 

How does the work in your internship intersect with TimeSlips? What makes it different? I love the concept of beautiful questions, so I try to bring in some of that creativity and freedom that comes with those questions into the tours. The audience in Reflections is similar to that of TimeSlips, so the communication techniques that I use in my internship are similar to what I learned last year. In my internship with Reflections and the Nasher, I have the opportunity to engage in new topics such as art history. I have been able to apply my experience and the techniques I have learned from Timeslips and pass on what I’ve taken away from that semester to the team. 

If there is one thing you could share with others that gets you excited about your involvement with healthcare and the arts, what would it be? Through Artists in Healthcare, TimeSlips, and Reflections, I have learned how integral an interdisciplinary approach to medicine is. A holistic view of medicine, one that emphasizes the humanities as well as the science, is important for thorough and effective treatment of an individual. I honestly believe that this view of medicine can further uphold someone’s dignity, which is a core quality of healthcare. As a pre-health student, I am excited to further advocate for this collaboration. One team member of Reflections, who is a first-year medical student, shared that she wants to incorporate some of the techniques she learned from TimeSlips into her approach to medical school. Hearing there are others who are also passionate about applying this intersection to patient care makes me excited for the future of healthcare.