Collaboration Takes Shape At The Intersection Of Art And Science

TWU and Harris County Institute for Forensic Sciences enter unique partnership

July 16, 2018, Houston – A magazine article, a chance meeting and a generous art donation by a Texas Woman's University (TWU) nursing faculty member, who also happens to be an artist, has led to an affiliation agreement between the university and the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences. The agreement allows TWU nurse practitioner students to complete clinical rotations in forensic science at the Institute. 

Dr. Michael Mistric in front of artwork he donated to the Harris County Institute for Forensic Sciences

As an associate professor at Texas Woman's University’s Nelda C. Clark College of Nursing in Houston, Michael Mistric, Ph.D., is continuously searching to identify new, greater clinical rotation opportunities for his nurse practitioner students. While the college campus, located in the Texas Medical Center (TMC), is surrounded by hospitals, clinics and medical research facilities, clinical rotations are competitive, and at times, can be a challenge to come by for advanced-practice nursing students.

One such TMC institution, the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, built and opened a new facility in March 2017. The Institute’s modern, state-of-the-art facility includes laboratory, medical, educational and family-focused areas, as well as common spaces throughout the building. The idea was for these common areas and niches to include contemplative works of art, creating a quiet, reflective space where employees and visitors can take a break from what is going on around them. 

A search for clinical rotations and a need for art to enhance a new facility are two very different issues, but a meeting between two dedicated professionals inspired solutions for both of their dilemmas.  

“When I’m not teaching, I can usually be found in my studio working on my next ‘masterpiece.’ I had just had my first gallery showing when I met Dr. Sanchez,” explains Mistric. “He had seen an article in the September 2016 issue of the TMC Pulse, the Texas Medical Center magazine, regarding my show and appreciated the vibrant colors of my work.”

“When I saw the article in the TMC Pulse, I took an immediate interest in Dr. Mistric’s work,” said Luis A. Sanchez, M.D., Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, executive director and chief medical examiner. “To me, his creations resemble microscopic organisms that one might see through the lens of a microscope. I felt like his art could be a unique compliment to the Institute’s new facility.”

When Sanchez approached Mistric about obtaining some of his works for the Institute, they discovered that there existed an inherent benefit for a partnership between the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences and Texas Woman’s University. The two entered into an agreement to have nurse practitioner students rotate through the Institute, and Mistric generously donated his art to the Institute as a symbol of goodwill and of the newfound partnership.

“I thought this would be a great opportunity to develop a collaborative partnership between our two organizations. He needed art and I needed clinical rotations for my students,” said Mistric. “It was a great fit for both of us as one of the Institute’s core values is to provide training in the field of forensic science.”

An affiliation agreement was struck, and with the help of Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Dwayne A. Wolf, M.D., Ph.D., who oversees the Medical Examiner Service at the Institute, an 80-hour rotation was established allowing TWU nurse practitioner students to receive forensic training and practical application of their classroom education. In the spring 2018 semester, the first semester of the partnership, 15 nurse practitioner students completed rotations at the Institute of Forensic Sciences.

“The students who’ve completed their rotation at the Institute are extremely appreciative of the training and experience they have received,” said Mistric. “My students now have an opportunity to experience first-hand many of the concepts of forensic science by viewing post-mortem examinations, attending crime scenes and motor vehicle accidents, and learning how the medical examiner determines cause and manner of death. More importantly, they have come to realize the role that they, a nurse practitioner, can play in the field of forensic science.” 

For his part, Mistric donated 14 smaller pieces and one large piece made up of several art tiles, the last of which was recently installed at the Institute. 

“The facility was intentionally designed to provide areas of respite and collaboration for staff. Dr. Mistric’s art is featured in these spaces to provide visual interest and opportunities for reflection,” said Sanchez. “What makes this donation meaningful is the artist. Displaying art having originated from an artist who also has a science/medical background provides a unique perspective into the mind of a fellow medical professional and his interpretation of the world. The story of Dr. Mistric and how these pieces came to be has been shared with our staff, and it is this interconnection of science and art, right brain and left brain, that makes these pieces so unique and meaningful to our office.”



About TWU Houston

TWU Institute of Health Sciences – Houston Center is located in the heart of the largest medical center in the world, the Texas Medical Center, and offers undergraduate nursing degrees and advanced degrees in several health science programs. TWU Houston is one of three campuses of Texas Woman’s University. TWU is the largest public university in the nation primarily for women and has an enrollment of approximately 15,000 students on campuses in Denton, Dallas and Houston. Since 1901, TWU has produced more than 88,000 graduates in fields vital to the growth and quality of life in Texas and the nation, including nursing, health care, education and business. Additional information can be found at

About Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences

The Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, an independent, science-based organization located on the grounds of the Texas Medical Center, provides two distinct forensic services for the Harris County community – the Medical Examiner Service and the Crime Laboratory Service. The Institute was established in 1957 as the first Medical Examiner system in the state of Texas. To learn more about the Institute of Forensic Sciences, visit:  

Photos by Dustin Hatfield

Page last updated 10:41 AM, May 17, 2022