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ESF, VA Celebrate 10 Years of Connecting Veterans to Nature


ESF representatives accept a certificate of appreciation from the VA Medical Center

Pictured (Left to Right), Dan Collins, Interim Associate Director ESF in the High School, Dr.Lee Newman, Associate Professor and Chair of Chemistry, Dr. Frank Pearson, Syracuse VA Medical Center Director, Joanie Mahoney, SUNY ESF President.

A rooftop space transformed into an outdoor garden at the Syracuse VA Medical Center by the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) has been impacting the lives of veterans for 10 years.

The Therapeutic Horticulture Rooftop Garden program at the Syracuse VA Medical Center uses the connection between nature and health to benefit veterans. Started by ESF faculty member and chair of the Chemistry department Dr. Lee Newman and graduate student Daniel Collins, the VA and ESF celebrated their decade-long partnership on Sept. 13.

The Therapeutic Horticulture Rooftop Garden program revived an existing outdoor area over the Medical Center's Regional Spinal Cord Disorder Center into a welcoming gathering space for veteran patients and family members. The garden and gardening-related activities help improve the health and well-being of the VA patients, including their psychological outlook. For 10 years, ESF faculty and students have donated their time and expertise to help patients grow and maintain their gardens.

"When Dr. Lee Newman and her Dan Collins began the Therapeutic Horticulture Rooftop Garden, they may not have imagined its ultimate incredible impact and reach," said ESF President Joanie Mahoney. She also praised the partnership with the VA that allows ESF to show appreciation for all the veterans have done for the country.

"The program provides a relaxing, natural space for our patients from the routine of their medical care and is particularly popular with patients in our Community Living Center who reside here in the hospital, and we are very appreciative of the ESF students and staff who have made this possible," said Dr. Frank Pearson Syracuse VA Medical Center Director.

"Watching the veterans' faces light up as they plant or harvest something or try something new and remember their own gardens is rewarding," said Newman.

Newman and Collins work with veterans on a weekly basis and look forward to continuing the Therapeutic Horticulture Rooftop Garden program for years to come.