Mural's message: We stand together

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC strategic communications | September 28, 2020

Image with caption: A bicyclist rides by the completed mural created by students in the new genetic counseling program.

A bicyclist rides by the completed mural created by students in the new genetic counseling program.

Charlie King, a second-year student in UNMC's master of genetic counseling program, frequently runs on Omaha's Keystone Trail.

It hit him one day, as he approached the location of the new Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI) building, near the University of Nebraska at Omaha Scott Campus, along the trail: "It's just a great location to put up a cool piece of art."

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Students in UNMC's new master's of genetic counseling program paint a mural beneath a pedestrian bridge on the Keystone Trail north of Pine Street, near the new home of the Munroe-Meyer Institute, on Sept. 13.

And so he and 15 of his fellow students in the genetic counseling program did just that.

The location is especially meaningful because the genetic counseling program is housed within the College of Allied Health Professions and is built on an innovative partnership with MMI and a number of community partners.

Over two days and about $260 worth of paint and other supplies, the genetic counseling students put up a mural on an underpass. Its bright yellow background features a DNA strand that spells out the message "WE STAND TOGETHER."

"We wanted to come up with something that represents UNMC and shares a positive message," King said. He said he and his fellow students also hope to spread the word about genetic counseling.

"It's a profession that can kind of lay in the weeds until you stumble across it," he said.

Genetic counseling is a profession combining medical genetics and counseling that supports individuals and families seeking information about how inherited diseases may impact their health.

The mural's message itself is more than merely a feel-good generality. It's also a response.

"We were looking for a way to make a positive impact in the community," King said. "With all of the social inequalities that are coming to light this year. With the death of George Floyd and all the other systemic racism and things coming to light.

"We stand with people from all races. We're all in this together."

The genetic counseling students contacted the parks department and the city's Public Art Commission in order to get permission. MMI genetics helped with a fundraiser for supplies.

Sierra Clark and Emily Toering came up with the design. None of the students have an arts background to his knowledge, King said, but, "We all have a call to serve, both on an individual basis, and on a broader scale," he said.

Genetic counselors work with patients to offer guidance in genetic testing as well as interpretation of results. These providers also provide psychosocial support to patients who are navigating the complexities of genomic medicine and decision making.

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Dr. Linda Love
September 28, 2020 at 12:46 PM

Incredibly proud of our students taking the lead on this public message! Very cool and inspiring. I can't wait to see what they (and other student groups) will do next!

Linda Bottom
September 28, 2020 at 11:30 AM

Great job! Thanks for caring! Thanks for giving!

Jen Bredehoft
September 28, 2020 at 9:47 AM

Great work!!

Nicole Giron
September 28, 2020 at 9:37 AM

This is terrific and congratulations to all the students! I am sure the participants in MMI's Recreation Therapy programs will appreciate it as they ride their adaptive bicycles by!

Anne Lawlor
September 28, 2020 at 8:48 AM

I am so proud of our Genetic Counseling students. Great job!!

Holly Zimmerman
September 28, 2020 at 8:11 AM

I am incredibly proud of this group of students (and future colleagues) for the positive impact they are making on our UNMC and Omaha communities.

Fran Higgins
September 28, 2020 at 7:05 AM

This was an awesome idea and our fantastic students made it happen. Great story!