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Center for Health Humanities Events

The Humanities and Ethics of Black Maternal Mortality
Thursday, October 21 | 12:30-1:30 PM | Zoom

Keisha Ray, PhD,
received her PhD in philosophy from the University of Utah and is currently an assistant professor with the McGovern Center for Humanities & Ethics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Most of Dr. Ray’s work focuses on the social and cultural determinants of Black people’s health, integrating race education into medical school curricula, and the ethics of biomedical enhancement.

In America, Black women (or pregnant people) are three times more likely than White women to die during or soon after childbirth. Despite the United States’ wealth, its expensive health care system, and its abundance of obstetrics and gynecology knowledge, largely built on the abuse of enslaved Black women, it is still potentially deadly for Black women to deliver babies in the United States. In this presentation I use the principles of bioethics and the methodologies of medical humanities to explore explanations and solutions to contemporary Black maternal mortality rates. Central to this presentation is a discussion of Black pregnant people as a population but also a discussion of how this issue affects individuals.

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Religious Perspectives on Grief and Loss
Thursday, October 28 | 12:30-1:30 PM | Zoom

In times of loss and mourning, religious traditions can offer comfort through structure, ritual, and community. Join us to hear three religious leaders discuss how their traditions approach grief, loss, and mourning. Understanding these traditions can help us with our own losses. It can also help us understand and support our friends, our students, our colleagues, and our patients during this period of great loss across the world.

Rev. Dean Shapley is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. He served churches in northern Illinois for 25 years, and currently serves as the Director of Mission and Chaplaincy for Lowell General Hospital in Lowell, MA. His daily work includes working with patients and families of all religious / spiritual persuasions at end of life, helping them manage difficult decisions and transitions, processing grief and loss, and making plans for healthy functioning through loss and afterwards. During the pandemic he served on the Massachusetts State Ethics Advisory Board, developing recommendations and policy for the state's Crisis Standards of Care.

Imam Elsir Sanousi earned a master’s degree in Islamic studies in Khartoum, Sudan, and completed training in clinical pastoral education at Massachusetts General Hospital and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He serves as an interfaith chaplain at MGH and BWH, and as Muslim chaplain for the Boston police and fire departments. He is also a funeral Imam at the Islamic Center of New England.

Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand is an author, radio broadcaster and leadership coach for clergy of all faiths. She is based in London where she serves as Director of Leadership and Learning for Pears Foundation. She broadcasts regularly on BBC radio and she is an officer of IJCIC, the global body that interfaces with the Vatican and other faith groups on behalf of World Jewry.

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Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life
Diane Shader Smith
Thursday, November 9 | 12:30-1:30 PM | Zoom

Hospitals increasingly promote patient-centered care but mounting pressure for providers to bill more while spending less time with each patient leads to dehumanized care. The irony is that patients are often excluded from discussions about their diagnoses, treatment plans, and prognoses, which is why The New England Journal of Medicine has launched a new initiative called, “The Power of the Patient Voice.” Although literature and medicine have long been intertwined, patient narratives are now recognized as an important part of medical education.

Diane Shader Smith will share the story of her daughter Mallory, who passed away at the age of 25, along with insights from Mallory’s posthumously published memoir, Salt in My Soul: An Unfinished Life. In a series of diary entries written over ten years, Mallory writes about invisible and visible illness, pain management, healthcare disparities, and the power caregivers have over a patient's day-to-day quality of life along with typical coming of age issues. Diane brings this story to life in a 30 minute talk illustrated with more than 150 colorful and engaging slides.

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Health Humanities Consortium's (HHC) 10th Annual Conference

The Center for Health Humanities is delighted to announce that we will be co-hosting the Health Humanities Consortium's (HHC) 10th annual conference with the Center for Literature and Medicine at Hiram College, and the Health, Medicine, and Society Program at Lehigh University. HHC is a leading international academic organization that brings together scholars in the area of health humanities. The three-day virtual gathering will be held from 3/25/2022 to 3/27/2022. This year's theme is "spaces of/for health humanities," broadly construed. We very much welcome your proposals and we look forward to learning more about your research. Details of the conference can be found on our CFP webpage. The deadline for submission is October 31, 2021.

Past Events

Spit Spreads Death: A Seminar with Dr. Jane E. Boyd

What can we learn from previous pandemics in the United States? Dr. Jane E. Boyd discusses in detail what 17,500 death certificates from the Mütter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia can show us how the 1918-19 influenza pandemic devastated the neighborhoods and communities of Philadelphia.

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Using Data and Multi-Sector Collaboration to Address Inequities During COVID-19

Presented by Devan Hawkins, Instructor of Public Health and Dr. Carly Levy, Assistant Professor of Public Health and Director, Master of Public Health Program.

The burden of COVID-19 has not been borne equally by all communities in the United States. In particular, people of color have accounted for a disproportionate share of cases, hospitalization, and deaths. At the same time, socioeconomically disadvantaged groups and those employed in essential jobs have also experienced the most severe impacts of the disease. In this presentation. Dr. Levy and Dr. Hawkins will present data describing these disparities and factors contributing to them. They will also discuss collaborative activities carried out by MCPHS students and faculty to address these disparities.

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Operationalizing Neurodiversity: How should the Neurodiversity Movement Shift Autism Service-Provision and Research

Presented by: Ari Ne’eman, doctoral student in Health Policy at Harvard University and Senior Research Associate at the Harvard Law School Project on Disability.

Over the last three decades, the neurodiversity movement has attracted growing attention and enthusiasm from autistic people around the world. Centered on the idea of opposing a "cure" for autism and other neurological disabilities, neurodiversity argues for a comprehensive reframing of the objectives of research, policy and service-provision regarding autism and certain other disabilities.

Ari Ne'eman is a doctoral student in Health Policy at Harvard University and a Senior Research Associate at the Harvard Law School Project on Disability. He co-founded the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and served as its executive director from 2006 to 2016. From 2010 to 2015, he served as one of President Obama's appointees to the National Council on Disability. He is currently working on a book for Simon & Schuster on the history of American disability advocacy over the last two hundred years.

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A Comparative Politics Perspective on Virus Response 

Presented by: Sofia Fenner, PhD Assistant Professor of Political Science, Arabic & Islamic Studies, Colorado College 

Governments have responded to the COVID pandemic in strikingly disparate ways. This variation is both fascinating and frustrating: it tells us something important about the ways we govern ourselves, but it has also produced deeply unequal health outcomes. As scholars and citizens have struggled to make sense of government responses, “culture” has emerged as one potential explanatory factor. Could there be something about the shared values, scripts, and practices of different communities that accounts for the form and success of virus response? Or can variation be better explained by historical and institutional factors? How should we assess the role of human agency within political and social structures? In this talk, Professor Sofia Fenner explores cases from around the world to shed light on what we can (and cannot) say about virus response thus far. 

Who We Grieve for and Why, a talk by Michael Cholbi

Humans grieve the deaths of others — but not all others. We of course grieve the deaths of close family and loved ones, but we also grieve the deaths of political leaders, role models, and celebrities. In this talk, Professor Michael Cholbi attempts to explain what kind of relationships with others are necessary in order for us to grieve their deaths. In so doing, we'll also better grasp the nature of the loss that leads us to grieve.

Michael Cholbi holds a chair in Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He has published widely in ethical theory, practical ethics, and the philosophy of death and dying. His book Grief: A Philosophical Guide (Princeton University Press, 2021) is the first book-length investigation of grief from a philosophical perspective. He is the founder of the International Association for the Philosophy of Death and Dying, and serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Applied Philosophy and Social Theory and Practice.

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