Civic Leadership Programs Engage St. Louis Gephardt News Lead Change St. Louis Fellowship Program Student News

Yelamali brings healing through the arts program to Children’s Hospital

During the COVID pandemic, Aditya Yelamali ’24 was worried that patients at St. Louis Children’s Hospital lacked interaction and stimuli that could help them heal. Yelamali, a 2023 Fandos Fellow in the St. Louis Fellows program, created Hearts for Arts as a patient-driven solution that would transcend the pandemic.  

“We coordinated with Melody Deweese, a child-life specialist at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, to set up a robot-guided virtual patient engagement program. Using the virtual robot, you could wheel around the hospital using your computer that we controlled remotely from a laptop back at WashU,” said Yelamali. 

The invention helped engage patients in ways that allowed for artistic exploration as well as a sense of normalcy. Kids were encouraged to make origami, crochet, paint, draw and engage in many other activities that stimulate as well as entertain. The goal of the program is to have individual contact with as many patients as possible, and Yelamali has seen firsthand what Hearts for Arts programs achieve in at Children’s Hospital. 

“We also have live activities that air throughout the hospital TVs in every patient room, to teach activities and have impacted many patients,” Yelamali said. “Each week, we created art with patients, and it has been immensely rewarding.” 

Yelamali was well-versed in the importance of patient outreach, as he interned at Williams & Associates, Inc. through the St. Louis Fellows Program. It was during this fellowship that Yelamali was able to organize events that provided treatment intervention and public health education and also emphasized wellness for minority patients.  

“My fellowship helped enhance many of the existing and new connections to the greater St. Louis community that Hearts for Arts had, looking to create more intentional programming, more conversations with community partners about what they valued in our partnership, and how we can make these connections as sustainable as possible,” Yelamali said. 

His work as a St. Louis Fellow underscored the importance of reaching marginalized sectors of the St. Louis community. To address this, Yelamali has most recently worked on expanding Hearts for Arts to meet the needs of the broader St. Louis community.  

“We now go in-person to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and work with other organizations such as the St. Louis Crisis Nursery, the Judevine Center for Autism, and STLArtworks, a nonprofit advocating for youth in the art space,” said Yelamali. 

On April 13, Hearts for Arts hosted an inaugural “Chill & Paint” event at St. Louis Artworks to display pediatric patients’ work at WashU. Patients who attended were also encouraged to create a collaborative piece with the St. Louis Artworks artists who were at the Chill & Paint event. 

Another event, in the works for April 26, is a prom held for patients of St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Hearts for Arts expects that hundreds of patients will be able to attend and celebrate this hallmark of adolescence. Yelamali hopes to create more events such as these through Hearts for Arts and further the mission he began as a St. Louis Fellow.  

To learn more about Hearts for Arts, follow them on Instagram

The St. Louis Fellows Program is offered annually to select WashU undergraduates and is made possible by generous donations to the Gephardt Institute. Learn more here. If you are interested in applying or nominating a student for the program, applications will be available online starting in early November. If you would like to make a gift to support the St. Louis Fellows Program, please contact Colleen Watermon at