At first glance, everything about Regina Holliday screams ordinary. She’s a woman of small stature with short brown hair and a kind face. But her bright red jacket with an “A” emblazoned on the back indicates otherwise.
Regina has designed and painted over 200 jackets herself, for individuals all across the nation. Each jacket is a painting of a personal narrative and together these jackets make up a movement called “The Walking Gallery of Healthcare.” By showcasing personal stories through art, these jackets open up dialogue and discussion and ultimately aim to change the health policy to be more patient-centered.
Regina’s journey as a patient advocate and activist began back in 2009, just six days after the death of her husband, Fred. Armed with her paintbrushes and paint and fueled by anger and grief, Regina told the story of the suffering Fred, who endured a flawed health care system, on the wall of a gas station, through her painting titled “73 cents.”
Regina learned about her husband’s terminal cancer through a brief phone call from the doctor, telling her to make an appointment with an oncologist. Regina had to look up what “oncologist” meant on the Internet. When Fred was first hospitalized, he and Regina were left in the dark about Fred’s medical condition. The responses they received over the course of Fred’s diagnosis and treatment were delayed and impersonal.
Desperate for answers because their own doctor was unavailable, Regina went to the hospital’s Medical Records Department, asking for Fred’s complete medical record. She was told that it would cost 73 cents per page and take at least 21 days. Experiences such as these, coupled with overall poor treatment, prompted Fred to say, “Go after them, Regina.”
And Regina did go after them, the best way she knew how — through her art. When Fred’s doctor found out that Regina had been trying to get answers about Fred’s condition, he said, “I understand Little Miss A-Type Personality has been asking questions about this case.” Regina’s jacket design with the “A” was inspired by this remark.
Today, Regina travels to classrooms and conferences. The focus of her workshop and campus-wide speech at the College was to explain that anyone can make a change. She added that all social media tools — such as Facebook and Twitter — are great outlets to start asking questions. In fact, Regina completed a painting while she was here, inspired by interactions she observed on campus with students and staff, titled “Hope.”
This painting represents the energy she felt at the College, which makes her hopeful for the future. She believes change is achieved by legislation, and legislation is changed by people.
Through her work, the “A” on Regina’s jacket has come to represent much more than “Little Miss A-Type Personality.” The “A” stands for artist, advocate and activist.
It can be implied that Regina Holliday’s painting “73 cents” sends a powerful message — when it comes to matters of patient advocacy, never be afraid to give your two cents.