NEH – Narrative in Tandem

Narrative in Tandem: Creating New Medical and Health Humanities Programming

Narrative in Tandem is a National Endowment for the Humanities project designed to establish a health humanities program, mutually complementary with the training of health professionals at the new UCR School of Medicine (SOM), the first new Medical School in California in more than 40 years. The timely co-establishment of an HSI health humanities program with a new medical school offers a rare opportunity to improve doctor-patient interactions through the humanities with a medical school that emphasizes a physician workforce committed to wellness and health for the under-served regions of Riverside and the Inland-area communities.

With a specific focus on the role of narrative in healing contexts, this proposal, Narrative in Tandem: Creating New Medical and Health Humanities Programming, seeks to develop an engaged conversation between faculty of the humanities and medicine around the cultural, economic, historical, and philosophical complexities of health and medical encounters. A focus on narrative recognizes communication tools that help doctors and patients better understand one another. These tools go beyond verbal communication. A symptom may be spoken but the severity, psychological effect, and sheer complexity of a disorder engage a breadth of human expression and communication. Doctors and patients benefit from understanding how this spectrum informs the ways we interpret feelings of pain, relate to or understand each other through enacted communication, and visualize, connected storytelling, and reflect on symptoms and interactions through written expression.

Narrative in Tandem is organized around understanding and practicing narrative in the humanities and medicine through three approaches to thinking about conveying, expressing, and understanding the symptom; enacted communication, visualizing, and writing. We define “the symptom” to include medical and social conditions that impact health experiences from patient/provider interactions to connections with individuals and communities not physically present in the encounter. Over the course of two years, twelve faculty participants from disciplines across the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and the School of Medicine will explore these issues through intersecting activities that are designed to:
1) contribute to the faculty’s knowledge of narrative in health and medicine;
2) develop a set of narrative skills, including course syllabi and educational activities that can be applied in humanities and medical education and programming;
3) compile seminar discussions to contribute to a larger strategy about integrating humanities and medicine; and
4) create the foundation for establishing a vibrant health humanities program on the UCR campus.

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