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UIC Creative Dissemination Grant

One of the grants that funded dissemination activities for the Health Humanities Portrait Project was the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Creative Dissemination Grant.

Under this grant, we disseminated our approach and curricula in 3 concurrent ways, including website development and dissemination, piloting Health Humanities Portraits and a creative nonfiction writing component for the HHPs.

Website Development and Dissemination Heading link

We completed building our project website, Human Stories of Illness: the Health Humanities Portrait Project, located within the Health Humanities website of the Department of Medical Education of UI’s College of Medicine site. The website is a way to share our innovative approach and to disseminate HHP materials for teaching at other institutions.

We uploaded all Health Humanities Portraits (HHPs) to establish an HHP online repository that has the capacity to expand as more portraits are developed by instructors nationally and internationally.

We established a mechanism to capture ongoing feedback about each HHP from website users. We hope to build a growing network of humanities faculty nationwide with whom to collaborate in creating and disseminating additional HHPs that are focused on new and different social themes.

Piloting HHPS Heading link

We piloted select HHPs by teaching them to other UIC health professionals and undergraduate students within and beyond the medical school. The purpose of piloting the portraits was to see if and how HHPS can be adapted, applied and eventually integrated into different pedagogical settings. We explored course offerings in the College of Nursing, School of Public Health, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to identify topic areas that might align with the topics covered in our various HHPs. We also identified faculty across the campus whose research or teaching areas of interest aligned with our topic areas. We then contacted teaching faculty by email, providing a description of our dissemination grant as well as a list of HHPs (title and brief description) for their review.

Exploring alternate modes of delivery

Due to the need for all virtual courses for the Spring 2021 semester, we learned from conversations with these select faculty that many courses were being offered asynchronously. Lectures and materials would be posted online and students sign in and complete coursework when they are able. As a consequence, there were few opportunities for live lectures during which we could deliver the portrait and dialogue with students about it. This limitation offered us the opportunity to explore alternate modes of delivering the portrait, namely posting all portrait materials online and offering a virtual space for the dialogue (i.e. discussion board). After careful consideration among core faculty, we came to the conclusion that the portrait truly “comes alive” during the dialogue with students and thus must be delivered synchronously to be effective.

As of March 2021 we have scheduled the delivery of five different portraits to be taught by our portrait Trainee Faculty in two of our health science colleges (Applied Health Sciences, Medicine) and one in Liberal Arts & Sciences (Anthropology). Due to the asynchronous nature of nursing school, we were unable to identify a suitable course to deliver in the College of Nursing.

DatePortrait TitleCourse Discipline for PilotCourse TitleNumber of student participants
November 20, 2020The Medicalization of Trans Lives Applied Health Sciences DHD 501: Disability Studies10 graduate students
February 26, 2021 Aging, End of Life, and Narrative EthicsMedical EducationMDC 631-4: Medical Colloquia 12 1st year MD students
April 2, 2021Life without Shelter in the US: Veterans and HomelessnessLiberal Arts & Sciences AnthropologyANTH 216: Medicine, Culture, and Society70 undergraduate students
April 19 and 21, 2021Identity at the Intersection of Gender and Religion Among Mexican-American Women in ChicagoLiberal Arts & Sciences AnthropologyANTH 216: Medicine, Culture, and Society70 undergraduate students
April 20, 2021Racial Disparities in Pandemic CareSchool of Public HealthGlobal Public Health42 undergraduate students

Participant feedback

Based on survey feedback from 37 students in the disciplines of medicine and disability studies when asked Is the Health Humanities Portrait (HHP) approach an effective way to learn about broad social forces that shape the illness experience 15 students felt that it was “extremely helpful”, 9 “quite helpful”, 1 moderately helpful and 12 didn’t respond.

  • Extremely Helpful

    Students who answered “extremely helpful” commented:

    “I think narrative is the only way which builds our empathy, which is the only hope I have that I will be able to temper my own stress & fast-pace to slow down and assess the situation and connect with patients, families, co-workers – people.”

    “This was incredibly effective because it was layered with complexity, intersectionality and kept students engaged through activities and quality discussion. The facilitators were prepared and well informed in the subject matter to direct and enrich the discussion.”

  • Quite Helpful

    One student who responded “quite helpful” commented:

    “Effective way to didactically learn about this side of medicine. Only better way to learn about it would be to actually see it.”

  • Moderately Helpful

    One student that responded “moderately helpful” commented:

    “It all depends on the motivation of the group that’s learning….if the prep was shorter (i.e., a paragraph or interview summary), it may be easier to reach and engage other students who may not have had time to complete the prep work. At the end of the day, it’s more effective that what we currently have (in medical school curriculum).”

Creative Nonfiction Writing Component Heading link

At the center of each Health Humanities Portrait (HHP) is a first-person account of an illness experience. These narratives provide a foundation for the humanities-driven exploration of the HHP’s social theme. By immersing students in the subjective experience of an individual, these narratives engage students emotionally and are memorable and vivid in a way that scientific and medical literature often is not. The close reading of personal narratives offers the opportunity for students to engage in the critical methodologies typical of work in the humanities, which values and emphasizes the subjective. At the same time, an understanding of how individual experience is impacted by structural factors requires students to reach beyond one individual’s experience and to connect it with scholarship and critical analysis. The creative nonfiction component is designed to guide students toward combining the two kinds of information in order to tell more nuanced and layered stories about the structural inequalities and multidimensionality of the illness experiences initially presented in the HHP. In asking students to connect the two in a coherent narrative, the creative nonfiction component: it asks students to consider the different ways that readers process scientific and narrative information; it requires them to grapple with and make sense of contradictions that exist between personal experience and population data; and it illuminates the ways that their own perspectives and biases may guide the selection and omission of story elements.