Humanities Institute

Health and Humanities Research Group - Fall 2018 Seminars

Tue, January 1, 2019
Health and Humanities Research Group - Fall 2018 Seminars
Health and Humanities Research Group

by Alissa Williams, HI Undergraduate Program Assistant

As a continuation of our Health & Humanities research initiative in partnership with Dell Medical School, the Humanities Institute is hosting a series of lectures that examine the intersection of healthcare and the humanities as a follow-up to May’s Pop-Up Institute. On September 10th, University Distinguished Professor Barbara Jones, Ph.D kickstarted the lecture series with a talk entitled “Adolescents and Young Adult with Cancer: Facing Loss, Finding Meaning, and Focusing on the Future.” Dr. Jones is the Associate Dean for Health Affairs and Co-Director for the Institute for Collaborative Health Research & Practice at the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, the Associate Director of Social Sciences and Community-Based Research at the LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes and Professor in the Departments of Oncology, Population Health, and Psychiatry. The second talk of the series was presented by bioethicist, Virginia Brown, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Population Health at the Dell Medical School, who presented on “Psychiatric Advanced Directives, Patient Self- Determination, and Social Justice” on October 1st.

While Drs. Jones’ and Brown’s experience and background differ, they both highlighted issues related to health equity and the tools that the humanities can bring to lending a voice to the underrepresented to reduce disparities.

Dr. Jones contextualized the idea that adolescents and young adults (AYAs) require unique physical and emotional support in order to develop their personalities and resilience while dealing with their diagnosis. The mental state in which AYAs are coping with this disease is quite malleable and fragile due to the critical period in their lives in which they are having to endure treatment. As a result, Dr. Jones is pushing forward the care of these patients by redesigning the infrastructure of their treatment. Dr. Jones suggests that resources be put in place for AYAs that provide them with an emotional support system, including family, treatment staff, friends, and community in order to aid in their search for meaning and engage them to fulfill their full growth potential while honoring their loss. By the end of this year, there will be a completed virtual AYA clinic at Dell Medical School that creates a unique physical space and tailored programs for those in this age group.

Dr. Brown’s presentation assessed the social and political necessity for psychiatric advanced directives and their implications for both the patient and the patient’s family – particularly those deemed “mentally incapacitated.” A psychiatric advanced directive is a legal document that one creates to answer the question of what one wants and does not want done medically should he/she become mentally incapacitated. Though there are a multitude of benefits to having this document, the serious nature of the situation in which this directive would be needed can put emotional strains on all those involved and cause complications for the medical administration in charge of the patient’s care. Dr. Brown stressed the importance of psychiatric advanced directives throughout her presentation and is looking to conduct a future qualitative study on healthcare providers’ experiences with psychiatric advanced directives in order to explore ways in which their implementation can be improved.

The Humanities Institute’s lecture series continued in November with Jewel Mullen, M.D., MPH, the Associate Dean for Health Equity and Associate Professor in the departments of Population Health and Internal Medicine at the Dell Medical School, who presented her talk, “You Can’t Fill a Vessel at an Empty Well: Cultivating Empathy to Achieve Health Equity,” on November 5th. Next month’s presentation with Courtney Donovan, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography & Environment at San Francisco State University, will focus on the "Digital Health, Health Humanities, and Barriers to Care: Integrating Arts, Humanities, and Technology to Understand Health Disparities."

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