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Using art to explain science / International expert in hot flashes finds simple way to share info

Silk flowers on dress mannequins indicate the location where women experience hot flashes. The body part depends on the woman's global location, according to menopause expert Janet Carpenter, who will speak at South Dakota State University March 21.
Silk flowers on dress mannequins indicate the location where women experience hot flashes. The body part depends on the woman's global location, according to menopause expert Janet Carpenter, who will speak at South Dakota State University March 21.

Event Details

Janet Carpenter
Janet Carpenter

By using simple artwork, a noted nurse scientist is making often-confusing information on a whisper-only topic a little more approachable.

Janet Carpenter’s topic—one that she has been researching for 20 years—is menopause, specifically hot flashes. Using artwork to explain the science, debunk the myths and offer treatment recommendations is comparatively new for Carpenter. It is a product of a 2017 sabbatical from Indiana University School of Nursing, where she is a distinguished professor and associate dean for research.

In 2018, she took the exhibit on the road, premiering first in Indianapolis and then at the annual Brigham and Women’s Hospital Women’s Health Luncheon in Boston May 11.

Her South Dakota premiere will be March 21 when Carpenter speaks at the Helen K. Grace and Nursing Deans’ Distinguished Lecture at 7 p.m. in the University Student Union’s Volstorff Ballroom at South Dakota State University. Admission is free. The event is open to men and women, notes Carpenter, a member of the North American Menopause Society.

Her talk is a product of a research statement that a North American Menopause Society panel developed in 2015.

From book drawings to traveling exhibit

Carpenter chaired the panel, which, she said, developed “a nice resource for clinicians” to treat hot flashes. “But I thought, ‘How could I somehow creatively distribute this to women?’” As is typical for academics, Carpenter thought she would write a book. Tapping into her creative side, she was drawing illustrations for her future book.

“A colleague said ‘I think you are making an art exhibit’ and sure enough, that’s what it is going to become”, Carpenter said. An early portion of the exhibit was in Boston. For Brookings, she will bring prints. The final version will be a walk-through exhibit with films, music, and interactive elements.

Mixing science and art seems like an odd combination, but not for Carpenter, who grew up doing dance, theater, music and needle arts. As an adult, she became more involved in drawing and in recent years has designed jewelry. In fact, Carpenter’s personal website ( includes a tab where she sells jewelry made from pieces of her original abstract paintings.

As for the research, three manuscripts have been submitted for publication and Carpenter is waiting to hear from the scientific publishers.

Words to remember

She said she will have plenty of takeaway points to share with her Brookings audience. Among them are:

  • Hot flashes are a global phenomenon affecting women in all cultures around the world for five to 10 years. However, there is variance for age of onset and location on the body.

“In developing countries we see it at an earlier age; we suspect because of poor nutrition. In Bangladesh, women feel hot flashes on the top of their head because their headscarves trap body heat. In Europe and North America, women feel them on their face and chest. In Mexico, women feel them as sticky sweat on the back of their neck,” Carpenter said.

With the mannequins, silk flowers decorate the part of the body where hot flashes are felt.

“There is some symbolism in the exhibit. We used silk flowers to represent blossoming and blooming at menopause rather than the traditional negative thoughts associated with menopause,” she said.

  • There are treatments available for hot flashes, both medications and alternative treatments such as clinical hypnosis.
  • There is no proven research that herbal remedies are effective. “Herbal products for hot flashes are not recommended,” she said.

Message suitable for men, too

“One of the main reasons I’m doing this is to make women’s health issues more visible to people; we’re talking about something we don’t normally talk about.

“I have been overwhelmed with how positively people react to this. People instantly connect in a way they wouldn’t if it was a lecture. The other day I gave a presentation to Arabic women living in Indianapolis. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. We had billed it as a women’s-only event because we didn’t know if it would be culturally appropriate for men.

“They all wanted to bring their husbands. They felt like their husbands needed to hear this.”

In mixed audiences, men and teens have responded well, Carpenter said.

More information on the topic, including press releases and three You Tube videos, can be found on

Thursday, Mar. 21, 2019 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm University Student Union , Volstorff Ballroom

Building Access Directions

The Student Union can be reached by taking Student Union Lane west off of Jackrabbit Avenue.

Parking Information

Parking is available east of the Union.