Category Archives: Health and Humanities

Rearticulating Medicine and the Humanities: An Undergraduate Perspective

By Shruti Patil

My strengths have always been in the hard sciences. I understood equations, tables, diagrams and graphs and therefore spent much of my childhood performing rudimentary science experiments. My windowsill was perpetually lined with salt crystals growing in cups and budding lima bean plants, and my floor had scattered pieces of a jigsaw puzzle of the human anatomy. While I excelled in my science and math classes, I suffered through my English and writing courses – an experience to which I think a lot of students in the sciences can relate. It wasn’t until my sophomore year of high school, when my English courses became more challenging, that I felt compelled to take them seriously. Up until this point, English seemed like a trivial subject, one that relied on fickle interpretation rather than on hard facts. My entire upbringing had championed the value of observable evidence, and the interpretative nature of the humanities struck me as a useless pastime. But I quickly learned that an insincere effort yielded less that optimal results in my classes, and so I was forced to seriously engage in the texts I was assigned in order to succeed. Eventually, I found myself invested in the things I was reading and began to grasp the power literature has to move and mold people. I developed enough of a passion in literature by the end of my high school career that I decided to double major in English and neuroscience.

When I entered UT this fall, I grappled with how best to integrate these two disparate fields. They simply were not areas I expected to see in communication with each other in academia. I desperately wanted to avoid the institutional silos that would have me to attending my science classes in one part of my day and my English classes in another. Through some idle summer research, I happened upon the faculty page of Dr. Philip Barrish, Professor of English, and noticed that he listed “medicine and literature” as a focus of his research. I was initially astonished by mention of this interdisciplinary field. In my past education, science and English had been isolated from one another and the thought that they could not only coexist but complement each other delighted me. Until this point, I believed that science and literature were incompatible fields of study, and I regarded my English major as combatting the stereotype that STEM majors make poor writers.

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The Evolution of Substance Misuse Prevention Among Teens

Dr. Lori Holleran Steiker presents research on how culturally grounded social work can aid in youth substance misuse prevention
By John Carranza

How have efforts to curb substance misuse among teens evolved over the past several decades?

High rates of adolescent drug use in the United States has posed a problem to researchers of human development for decades. In the 1960’s, the epidemic of teen drug use began to sky rocket, causing researchers who study human development to begin seeing drug use as a social norm. In an effort to curb widespread drug use, programs such as D.A.R.E began sprouting up to educate youth on the risks associated with drug misuse and to teach students how to resist peer pressure. Although these programs ameliorated the issue of widespread drug misuse among teens, the research has shown that these successes were not, in fact, due to these programs’ attempts to educate youth, but rather due to the sustained and long-term interaction that these programs fostered between teachers and students. The more successful programs additionally accounted for the maturation process of adolescents and the cultural environments that adolescents negotiate daily.

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On Medical Racism

Dr. John Hoberman discusses racial bias in the practice of medicine and medical education
By John Carranza

How has the Western legacy that divides human beings into distinct racial categories affected the practice of medicine in the U.S.? Today’s secular classification of race is grounded in the study of human anatomy. In the late 19th-century, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, a professor of medicine, measured a variety of human skulls, from which he ascertained five racial classifications: Caucasian, Mongolian, Malayan, Ethiopian, and American. The simultaneous colonization of the Americas, driving and driven by these racial classifications, solidified the privileging of white colonists over colonized populations, engendering a racial folklore of white superiority that has been handed down through generations.

Blumenbach’s 1795 Example of Human “Varieties”

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Ethnographic Lessons for Well-Being

Gloria Gonazález-López discusses intellectual vulnerability in the study of sexual violence in Mexico
By Clare Callahan

Supervivientes is a concept some people with histories of sexual violence living in Monterrey, Mexico have used to identify their life experiences. As an alternative to the linked concepts of victim and survivor, the word conveys the idea that people with stories of sexual trauma “might not be survivors or victims but rather human beings with a special capacity to successfully embrace life in spite of excruciating life circumstances.”

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