School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

Medical students paint parking structure stairwell to encourage healthy habits

Class of 2015 medical students Philip Shaheen and Ashika Bains are leading the ‘Paint the Stairs’ project.

Class of 2015 medical students Philip Shaheen and Ashika Bains are leading the ‘Paint the Stairs’ project.

Take the stairs.

That’s the message behind the art murals cropping up in the stairwell of Wayne State University’s Parking Structure 4 at the corner of Canfield and St. Antoine on the School of Medicine campus.

The Paint the Stairs project is the result of medical students putting their lessons into action, led by the Class of 2015’s Philip Shaheen.

“In school, we’re always taught to advise people to take the stairs instead of the elevator as an easy way to increase physical activity, so I started thinking of ways I could encourage more people to take the stairs,” he said. “I know people are always more willing to do something if you make it fun so I thought it would be cool to make that whole stairwell a giant art piece.”

The first-floor murals, a tribute to jazz, includes dancing silhouettes, a red spotlight, a saxophone player, two singers and steps painted like piano keys. The first phase was completed in a few hours Oct. 5 by a team of medical students.

A Detroit-Windsor skyline theme is expected on the second floor this week.

Shaheen, an Oak Park resident, quickly partnered with fellow second-year student Ashika Bains, the artist who designs all the murals.

“I feel like we've truly lent something to the school,” she said.

Parking Structure 4 is used by medical students, staff and faculty, as well as employees of the Detroit Medical Center.

“We're told to constantly promote healthy lifestyles to our future patients. Well, what about the students? Or the nurses? Or the doctors? I know the hospital staff (at the Detroit Medical Center) also uses that parking structure, so I felt this project was an excellent way to reach out to everyone,” Bains said.

The stairwell art is the only project of its kind on campus, said Jonathan Frederick, director of Wayne State University Parking and Transportation Services. Frederick’s administration approved the idea, the artwork, the materials and the safety methods for the installation.

“I really liked the idea. I thought it was a great student project and a wonderful way to try to get people to use the stairs and to promote good health habits,” he said.

The Paint the Stairs project was supported through medical alumni funds and the Wayne State University Dean of Students Office, said Vice Dean of Medical Education Maryjean Schenk, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.

“This is another excellent example of the student’s engagement with our medical school community. Phil Shaheen and his fellow medical students believe that physical activity should be a high priority. One of the ways to achieve this is by injecting activity into our regular daily activities, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator,” Dr. Schenk said.

The students plan to paint all eight floors, although all themes aren’t decided yet. Suggestions and volunteers are welcome.

“No artistic experience is required since we have the designs already made for you, but we do allow some improvising if students are feeling creative and want to add their own twist to something. In exchange for their time, we offer the chance to be a part of something unique and lasting at Wayne State,” Shaheen said.

For Bains, the payoff hits even closer to home.

“I think my favorite part is that I know my mom, who works at the DMC, takes the stairs now,” she said with a laugh.

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