Center for the Art of Medicine

Avi Nahum photo of a Healthcare worker in a mask

The Center for the Art of Medicine (CFAM) was established in 2020 by Founding Director Jon Hallberg, MD (family medicine) and Associate Directors Maren Olson, MD, MPH, MEd (pediatrics),  Bernard (“Ben”) Trappey, MD (internal medicine-pediatrics) and Anthony Williams, MD (internal medicine-pediatrics). 

Ben Trappey

Dr. Ben Trappey, Associate Director

Dr. Trappey is a Med-Peds hospitalist at the University of Minnesota Medical Center. He is passionate about helping other providers become more effective storytellers through programs and events like story slams, storytelling workshops and electives.


Jon Hallberg

Dr. Jon Hallberg, Director

Dr. Hallberg has long been an active patron, participant and volunteer in the Twin Cities arts community, and he has woven medicine and the arts together in myriad ways since he was a medical student. As medical director of the innovative and award-winning Mill City Clinic, he has been able to create a unique space where the art of medicine is carried out seamlessly.

Maren Olson

Dr. Maren Olson, Associate Director

Dr. Olson is a pediatric hospitalist at Children's Minnesota and an associate program director for both the Pediatric Residency and the Pediatric Hospital Medicine Fellowship at the University of Minnesota. She is passionate about the power of storytelling to build connection, foster empathy and promote healing.

Anthony Williams

Dr. Anthony Williams, Associate Director

Dr. Williams is a Med-Peds hospitalist at HealthPartners who splits his clinical time between Regions and Children’s Minnesota. He is also an Associate Program Director of the Med-Peds residency program at the University of Minnesota. He is passionate about creative writing and the power of narrative expression to cultivate resilience.

Mission and Goals: The primary focus of the Center for the Art of Medicine is on medical students, residents, fellows, faculty and community physicians, all in an effort to deepen empathy, encourage curiosity, promote creative thinking, and embody the joy of practice. Faculty from several departments will be actively involved in the Center including (but not limited to) Family Medicine & Community Health, Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics.  

An advisory board, which will be developed at a later date and consist of a diverse group of arts leaders from the greater Twin Cities art community, will provide guidance on programming and events, development efforts, and outreach. 

deepen empathy

Deepen empathy

Engage Curiosity

Encourage curiosity

Promote creative thinking

Promote creative thinking


Joy of practice

Embody the joy of practice


Hippocrates Cafe

Hippocrates Cafe

Hippocrates Cafe is a live, one-hour show that places healthcare topics in context through story and song. Each unique show has a theme that actors, musicians, and storytellers explore in front of live audiences.

Since it was created in 2009, there have been over 100 shows performed in eight states, in such places as the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, the Minnesota State Fair, and Stanford University.

The Center for the Art of Medicine recently expanded on this work by creating a show with Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) PBS entitled, “Reflections on the Pandemic.” This show will be distributed nationally on PBS stations in early 2021.

Watch the full TPT + Hippocrates Cafe production.

Storytelling in Medicine Program

Storytelling in Medicine

It has been said that humans are the storytelling animal--that our ability to tell, hear, and share stories is what makes us who we are. Stories are one of the most powerful ways for us to connect, empathize, and to heal, and the Center for the Art of Medicine’s Storytelling in Medicine Program plans to build on the storytelling work initiated by Drs. Ben Trappey and Maren Olson by: gathering and sharing healthcare worker and patient stories; partnering with minority/marginalized communities to share stories of inclusion and bias through written works, podcasts, story slams; the creation of anthologies of medical stories; teaching reflective writing techniques; and facilitating story slams for students, trainees, and faculty.

Artistic Antidote Header

Artistic Antidote

This was our center’s first public-facing response to the uncertainty and stress surrounding COVID-19, felt especially by health professionals. With the hopes of having art serve as a compass in disorienting times, we began offering daily doses of poetry, prose, music and art as a “Artistic Antidote to a Pandemic”. This daily email and blog serves as a reflection of the time and a warehouse of thoughts inspired by the pandemic and unrest we’ve been experiencing.

Collaborating with MotionPoems

On Lockdown Screenshot

Recognizing the elevated need to explore feelings through art, CFAM has partnered with the award-winning non-profit MotionPoems where poetry is turned into short visual films for enhanced impact. CFAM, in partnership with MotionPoems, has produced two works during the pandemic designed for reflection and to encourage positive action: 

On Lockdown” Poem by Todd Boss, Film by Calum Macdiarmid

To be of Use” Poem by Marge Piercy, Film by Tamika Miller

Performing Arts Consultation and Collaboration


CFAM Director Jon Hallberg has expanded his work with performing arts organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to craft practices that balance performance and safety. To date he has worked closely with Black Label Movement, the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS), the Minnesota Orchestra , and The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO).

Learn more about how Jon Hallberg, MD and Carl Fink, Director, Black Label Movement implemented CDC protocols for safe contact  during this high impact dance performance for TEDxMinneapolis in fall, 2020.

Read about Dr. Hallberg’s work advising the Minnesota Orchestra on how to safely perform, through a partnership with the College of Science and Engineering’s Aerosol Lab. In addition, watch this piece (“Safety in the Spotlight”) recently aired on Twin Cities Public Television (TPT PBS) during intermission of a recently broadcast concert.

student playing flute in clinic lobby while patients watch

Music in the Clinics

The Center for the Art of Medicine will facilitate the ongoing partnership with the School of Music in the College of Liberal Arts to offer an opportunity for students to share their talents in healthcare settings, such as the M Health Clinics and Surgery Center,  benefiting patients, staff, students, and the greater community.

Curriculum Integration & Extracurricular Efforts

Med Students

The Center is investigating ways that it can work with existing curriculum to integrate cultural competence and historical context, through the arts and humanities. In addition, the Center will work with faculty to incorporate medical storytelling and reflective writing into current offerings.

When a call went out for virtual electives after the COVID pandemic set in and drastically altered medical education, we offered a student-led elective course entitled, “Pandemics in Film”. We hope to create and continue to offer similar electives as needed.