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UNC School of the Arts, Novant Health partner to provide medical wigs to patients

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Usually when college students sign up for a class, it’s to prepare for their future.

Students at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts are doing that while also investing in giving back to people who could really use their help.

The School of Design and Production’s Wig & Makeup Program has partnered with Novant Health to make wigs for medical patients with hair loss.

“We were able to actually build for them 12 medical wigs, fully hand-tied custom wigs that were gifted at the end of the term,” said Christal Schanes, a wig and makeup associate professor who teaches the medical wig class.

Emily Young is one of the students who went through the class.

Young made a wig for Susan Barbour, a breast cancer survivor who still remembers the moment she had to shave her head.

“I didn’t want them to spin me around. I didn’t want to look,” Barbour said.

Losing her long blonde hair was painful, but through pictures, Young was able to create a wig that was similar to Barbour’s hair before chemo.

“I came home and got out of the car and my son was standing there and he said, ‘Wow, it looks just like you,’” Barbour recalled.

“I didn’t know that I would be so affected by it emotionally,” Young said.

Throughout the program students interacted with clients.

Novant Health nurses also worked with students to explain the needs of each client and the importance of addressing health issues such as scalp sensitivity.

Each wig is made from human hair and is shaped for the client’s head.

They are lightweight to ensure they are breathable and provide room for natural hair growth.

“As a wig builder, it’s always important for us to not only do what we love, but be able to help people and this is one of those moments,” Schanes said.

Last spring was the first time the medical wig class took place.

The 12 wigs were gifted to patients in late April, early May.

The hope is that the medical wig class will return next spring, but it all depends on outside funding because it’s not part of the budget covered by the state.

Each student had a $600 budget to make the wigs -- providing them at no cost to clients.

Novant Health’s Nurse Navigators were responsible for finding the patients in need.