Humanities Institute

2018 Health & Humanities Pop-Up Institute Lectures


Vanessa Grubbs Vanessa Grubbs

"Are We Still Worlds Apart?: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Kidney Transplantation"

Wed, May 9, 2018 | CLA 1.302B, 305 E. 23rd St., Austin, TX 78712
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
Dr. Vanessa Grubbs is an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Nephrology at the University of California, San Francisco. She has also maintained a clinical practice and research program at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital since 2009. Dr. Grubbs has experience caring for patients with advanced chronic kidney disease, and has written and spoken in national forums on the topic of renal palliative care. In addition to her scientific accomplishments, Dr. Grubbs has dedicated much of her time to narrative nonfiction writing. She has taught “Writing For Change,” a narrative writing course from a health policy perspective to medical students and practicing clinicians, since 2011. Dr. Grubb’s memoir Hundreds of Interlaced Fingers explores a love story and her journey in the world of medicine and kidney transplantation.

For more information on Dr. Grubbs lecture, please visit our event page


James PennebakerJames Pennebaker

"Expressive Writing and Health: How Putting Upheavals into Words Can Affect Our Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors"

Wed, May 16, 2018 | CLA 1. 302B, 305 E. 23rd St., Austin, TX 78712 
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Dr. James W. Pennebaker is the Regents Centennial Professor of Liberal Arts and Executive Director of Project 2021. He and his students are exploring natural language use, group dynamics, and personality in educational and other real world settings. His earlier work on expressive writing found that physical health and work performance can improve by simple writing and/or talking exercises. His cross-disciplinary research is related to linguistics, clinical and cognitive psychology, communications, medicine, and computer science. His current position with Project 2021 involves rethinking undergraduate education at the University of Texas. Author or editor of nine books and over 250 articles, Pennebaker has received numerous awards and honors.

Dr. Pennebaker's lecture explored the health benefits of expressive writing. In 1986, the first expressive writing study found that students asked to write about their most upsetting experiences for fifteen minutes a day for four consecutive days later had half the number of student health center visits than students asked to write about superficial topics. Since the first expressive writing study, well over 500 experiments have expanded on this phenomenon. Why does translating our thoughts and feelings into words affect our health and everyday behaviors? A generation of research is beginning to find some promising answers.

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Annie BrewsterAnnie Brewster

"Putting Stories to Work: Why and How Sharing Stories Promotes Health"

Mon, May 21, 2018 | Blanton Museum of Art Auditorium, 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Austin, TX 78701
12:00 PM - 1:00 P.M.

Dr. Annie Brewster is the Founder and Executive Director of Health Story Collaborative, a forum for sharing stories of illness and healing. Dr. Brewster is also a practicing internist at Massachussets General Hospital in Boston. In 2010, Dr. Brewster began recording patient narratives, inspired by a belief in the power of stories to improve health and the patient voice. Her work has been published on the BUR Commonhealth Blog, NPR.org, the New York Times Well Blog, and in the Boston Globe and MS Focus magazine. She has additionally presented at TEDx Fenway 2014.

In her lecture, Dr. Brewster shared her perspective on the importance of storytelling within healthcare. Specifically, she shared her knowledge, both personal and scientific, on why stories promote health, as well as practical guidance on how to use storytelling as a therapeutic tool.

For more information on this lecture, please visit our event page. 


Jonathan MetzlJonathan Metzl

"Structural Competency, 5 Years On: Tracking a New Medical Approach to Stigma and Inequality"

Wed, May 30, 2018 | Health Discovery Building, Auditorium, 1701 Trinity Street, Austin, TX 78712
12:00 PM - 1:00 AM

Dr. Jonathan Metzl is the Frederick B. Rentschler II Professor of Sociology and Psychiatry, and the Director of the Center for Medicine, Health, and Society, at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He received his MD from the University of Missouri, his MA in humanities/poetics from Stanford University, where he also completed his Psychiatric internship/residency, and his PhD in American Culture from University of Michigan. A 2008 Guggenheim fellow, Professor Metzl has written extensively for medical, psychiatric, and popular publications. His books include The Protest PsychosisProzac on the Couch, and Against HealthHow Health Became the New Morality.

Dr. Metzl gave the keynote lecture for the Health and Humanities Pop-Up Institute Public Symposium. His talk described a shift in medical education away from approaches to stigma and inequalities that emphasize cross-cultural understandings of individual patients toward attention to forces that influence health outcomes at levels above individual interactions. It reviewed existing structural approaches to stigma and health inequalities developed outside of medicine, and proposed changes to U.S. medical education that will infuse clinical training with a structural focus. This approach, termed “structural competency,” consists of training in five core competencies: 1) recognizing the structures that shape clinical interactions; 2) developing an extra-clinical language of structure; 3) rearticulating “cultural” formulations in structural terms; 4) observing and imagining structural interventions; and 5) developing structural humility. Dr. Metzl's lecture argued that increasing recognition of the ways in which social and economic forces produce symptoms or methylate genes needs to be better coupled with medical models for structural change.

For more information on this lecture, please visit our event page