Bringing the Outside In
Cancer Center researchers are measuring the health impacts of gardens—rooftop and virtual by Laura Niles Which came first, the
reality component, since not all study participants, such as those
rooftop garden or
who are immunocompromised, can get outdoors.
the directional sign
Renee Stubbins, PhD, RD
Ashley Verzwyvelt, RN, OCN
to the rooftop garden?
“The Impact of Virtual Reality/Biophillic Environment on Distress
In the case of a
and Pain in Oncology Patients” is designed to observe 36 solid
tumor oncology patients who receive infusions every two weeks
to measure the impact
for at least six cycles. The participants will be randomly assigned
of both a real garden
to one of three rooms at each visit: control, virtual reality or garden
and a virtual environment
view. Data collection will occur in patients with various stages
on Houston Methodist Cancer Center oncology patients, the sign
and types of cancer and will measure both subjective and
came first. While pointing to a nonexistent garden, it planted the
objective components, including pain, stress, heart rate, blood
seed for a new clinical study and potentially an innovative patient
pressure and saliva cortisol levels before and after infusion.
therapy. As word of the endeavor spread, interest from community groups The misplaced sign appeared in the Outpatient Center, the work site
and charitable organizations continued to grow. The project now
of Renee Stubbins, PhD, RD, senior research oncology dietitian,
includes entities offering their work pro bono, including Skyline
and Ashley Verzwyvelt, RN, OCN, oncology infusion nurse liaison.
Art Services, landscape designers Asakura Robinson, the Trevino
After realizing the sign was a "mistake"—a preliminary notice for
Group and others. It also attracted the attention of Houston
future plans—the two co-workers were inspired to make inquiries.
muralist Mario Figueroa, Jr, better known as GONZO247, who
They learned what was required and then submitted a proposal
has donated his talents to paint a gardenscape as part of the
for a simple study to see what nature could do to improve patient
health and wellbeing during infusion therapy. On October 11, a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrated the official
To the researchers’ surprise and delight, the project grew
opening of the garden and mural installation, located on the 21st
exponentially. The Center for Health and Nature, the funding entity for
floor of the Outpatient Center. Data collection for the project is
the study, paired Stubbins and Verzwyvelt with Ann McNamara, PhD,
already underway. The next phase of the project will explore how
associate professor and associate head of the Department of
the garden may support clinician wellbeing, when used as a
Visualization at Texas A&M University. McNamara added a virtual
retreat for staff as well as patients.