Spring/Summer 2018
A seedling of an idea takes root

synapse: University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine

Memorial garden renderings

Rendering of the Donor Memorial Garden at the William N. and Myriam Pennington Medical Education building by Marty Sillito.

Memorial garden is a living reminder of donor generosity

Story by Christy Jerz

As a University of Nevada, Reno English professor, Cheryll Glotfelty spends a lot of time in Frandsen Humanities, a building bookended by the lush greenery of Manzanita Lake and The University Quad. So it might surprise you to hear that the other end of campus is constantly on her mind.

"Campus began on the south end, so the landscaping is already beautiful-mature and established," said Glotfelty, who has served as chair of the University's Arboretum Board since 2014. "Our board is continually brainstorming ways to beautify the north end of campus."

Another fan of upper campus is fellow University Arboretum Board member Marty Sillito. As the University of Nevada, Reno assistant director of grounds services, Sillito's landscaping responsibilities extend to the health sciences campus.

"One day I found myself walking in the medical area of campus when I discovered this low rock wall that was hidden by overgrown plants and shrubs," said Sillito. "As I followed the wall behind the mass of plantings, I discovered a hidden opportunity. This space had the skeletal infrastructure to create a welcoming and inviting garden for potential users. I did not know at that time what this garden would become."

According to Sillito, the Arboretum Board had been wanting to design some sort of a zen or holistic garden on campus for a long time, using words like "holistic," "zen," "healing," "medicinal," "herbal" and "comfort" to describe their vision.

"It wasn't until Nevada Donor Network reached out to us with a desire to create a donor memorial garden that the realization of what this space could become came to fruition," Sillito said.

"We were incredibly honored to collaborate with the University of Nevada, Reno and its Arboretum Board to create this special space as a tribute to organ, eye and tissue donors who have saved and healed lives through their precious gifts," said Joe Ferreira, Nevada Donor Network president and CEO. "It is our hope that this garden provides a healing and peaceful space for donor family members to remember the lasting legacies of their loved ones, while also offering a way for our future medical professionals to connect with the important mission of donation."

The calming sounds of a three-tiered water feature, made possible with gifts in support of the University's Anatomical Donation Program, provide a tranquil environment for medical students, faculty and visitors to enjoy, as well as a place to memorialize whole body donations made to the School of Medicine.

"Our subcommittee wanted to design an outdoor space where students, faculty, staff and visitors alike could come to relax and decompress. This is a place that will take on many meanings for different people, but it will always be a welcoming place to contemplate, reflect, honor and memorialize," Sillito said.

The Donor Memorial Garden, which is the first phase of a five-phase wellness garden, was dedicated April 27. When all five phases are complete, the garden will encircle the Pennington Medical Education Building.

To learn more about supporting the School of Medicine, please contact Shari Netzel, development director, (775) 682-6077 or snetzel@unr.edu. To learn more about the School of Medicine's Anatomical Donation Program, please contact Joyce King, anatomical donation program administrator, (775)784-4569 or jaking@med.unr.edu.

Memorial garden supporters

Supporters of the Donor Memorial Garden celebrated its dedication Friday, April 27 at the William N. and Myriam Pennington Medical Education Building. From left: Marsha Naccarato, UNR Med Office of Medical Research; Kelli Little, Nevada Donor Network (NDN); Joe Ferreira, NDN; Undersheriff Susan Schilling, Washoe County Sheriff's Office; Marty Sillito, assistant director of grounds services; Sgt Karen Garretson, Nevada Highway Patrol; Monica Myles, NDN; Xochie Rogers, NDN volunteer; Nancy Ponte, NDN volunteer (and donor mom); Alex Smith, Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles; Col. John O'Rourke, Nevada Highway Patrol; Trudy Larson, M.D., Community Health Sciences dean and NDN governing board chair; Melissa Piasecki, M.D., UNR Med executive associate dean; Joyce King, UNR Med anatomical donation program administrator; Gillian Moritz, UNR Med assistant professor of physiology and cell biology; Lindsey Pisani, UNR Med anatomy lab manager and Caroline Cobine, assistant professor of physiology and cell biology. Photo by Krystal Pyatt.

About the Plants

Marty Sillito, University of Nevada, Reno assistant director of grounds services, carefully selected plant varieties that reflect health awareness, medicinal purposes, pollinator attraction, calming effects and overall beauty and aesthetics.

"By keeping your body healthy and well through the beneficial purposes of such plants as these, you increase your potential of donating a healthy organ for those who so desperately need it," Sillito says. "This garden should not only remind us of the selfless acts of those who chose to be an organ donor so that others may live, but also serve as a reminder of the importance of our own well-being and second chances for those who are the beneficiaries of that gift."

Lavender eliminates nervous tension, relieves pain, enhances blood circulation and can induce sleep and relaxation. It is also known to reduce inflammation for people who suffer autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Lemon balm may improve symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease, has anti-diabetic effects and can be used to naturally treat eczema, acne and minor wounds.

Rosemary is one of the herbs most commonly found in a home spice rack. It enhances brain function, and the aroma alone has been linked to improving one's mood and clearing the mind. It also works as an effective breath freshener that improves oral health.

Yarrow was first used by ancient Greeks over 3,000 years ago for treating external wounds on the skin. The fresh leaves were also chewed to relieve toothaches. Scientists have credited yarrow for its benefits relating to almost every organ in the body.

Other plants like chocolate flower, coralbells and Firecracker Penstemon attract butterflies and humming birds by providing valuable nectar for native pollinators. Plus, they display an astounding color palette for natural beauty and aesthetics which can reduce stress. (And yes, the chocolate flower really does smell like chocolate.)