Author Archives: PF Anderson

#WorldPoetryDay and #MedHum

Books: Dental History: Poem: A Memory by Helen Chase

A group of us are trying to start a special interest group within the Medical Library Association around the theme of medical humanities. We’re all coming at this from the common love of Graphic Medicine (comics in healthcare), however we decided to propose the broader concept of medical humanities as one that encompasses graphic medicine, while offering flexibility, room to grow, and opportunities for creative partnerships. This came in part from realizing that 1) graphic medicine is only one of the emerging new literacies combining a variety of media in information delivery and storytelling, 2) preferred modes and names and media/mediums change over time, and 3) the long term value for sustainability of working under a broader umbrella. Please note, this expresses my views on our process, and I am not speaking for anyone else. If you want more info on the SIG (which is meeting for the first time at the MLA Annual Meeting on Monday) you can comment on this blogpost or reach out on Twitter to any of the co-conveners: me (@pfanderson), Matthew Noe (@NoeTheMatt), or Alice Jaggers (@AJaggers324).

Anyway, the field of medical humanities IS rather broad and large, with lots of subdivisions, one of those being ways in which poetry is used in healthcare, therapeutically for reading, therapeutically with writing, and educationally as a tool for creating insight in healthcare practitioners for the patient experience as well as the reverse. I’ve been collecting books of poetry on science and healthcare themes for literally decades. With yesterday being World Poetry Day, I scrounged around on Twitter to find examples of what other people were highlighting that might fall in this area.

In this small selection, you can find poems about hospitals and hospice, illness and injury, social determinants of health, pain (emotional and physical), dementia, grief and recovery, reasons to live, happiness and healing, and more. Poems included are written by a broad range of authors, near and far, old and new, soldiers, parents, friends, patients, doctors, activists, and more. Some of the names may be familiar (Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, Bob Dylan, Robert Service, Emily Dickinson, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Shel Silverstein, Maya Angelou, Seamus Heaney, Dorothy Parker), while others may be less so (Kobayashi Issa, John McCrae, Kayo Chingonyi, Mark Strand, David Orr, Joelle Barron, Shawn Hunter, Helen Dunmore, Louise Gluck, Ali Jazo). I’ve divided it into two sections. The first section (“Poems to Read”) is tweets about or of poems by notable literary poets, which may make a nice place to find poems to read therapeutically. The second section (“About Poetry in Healthcare”) includes examples of poems written by patients, or clinical spaces as part of education and outreach, as well as articles about how poetry is being used in healthcare environments and settings, with some rather interesting projects and descriptions of patient experience. And remember — this is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more. Feel free to share soem of our own favorites in the comments!




How did I find these? Because someone always asks. Here — I searched in Twitter, like this: #WorldPoetryDay (cancer OR care OR clinic OR death OR doctor OR dying OR health OR healing OR hospice OR hospital OR illness OR injury OR injured OR medicine OR nurse OR nursing OR pain OR recovery OR “waiting room”)


Promoting Human Rights Through Science: What do we do, What can we do, and What’s right to do?

Screenshot of title page

Screenshot of the title page of the article. Please go to the article itself for full description.

“Promoting Human Rights Through Science.” That’s the title of a new article, available today from Science Magazine. (Ironically, unaware of this, today I wore my “March for Science” t-shirt to the office as a “casual Friday” thing.)

Promoting human rights through science
Lauren Segal, Ryan Dz-Wei Chow, Brijesh Kumar, Jenny Nguyen, Kun-Hsing Yu, Jennifer Chen, Emre Ozan Polat, Kaitlyn Elizabeth Porter, Michelle Kelly-Irving, Israel Bimpe, Kristy A. Winter, Runxi Zeng, Majid Ahmed, Dustin Ray Saalman, Joshua Isaac James, Michal Kosinski, Easton R. White, Fernanda S. Oda, Hope Bretscher, Perrine Hamel, Swati Negi, Ali Jawaid
Science 06 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6359, pp. 34-37
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq1083

I know for myself, it has always been important to me to have my work include opportunities for advocacy for others, a chance to make a difference, to better lives. In the Dentistry Library, we worked to support outreach, information, education, research, and clinical work in the last major social healthcare frontier in the USA. In my job as the Emerging Tech Informationist I am able to be part of the conversations around adopting and developing new technologies and keep the questions in mind of how patients and the public are being included, and how technologies create new disabilities even as they create new opportunities. As a researcher, I work to the best of my ability to ensure that my work has the potential to not only inform interesting questions, but to empower others to apply our work and methods in their own environments. I try to publish in open access journals, I try to use open source tools. I try to make my methods crystal clear and replicable. I try to share my data. I try to partner, widely, and sometimes that means compromising and negotiating and educating around issues of intellectual property, access, openness, transparency, and so forth.

In today’s SCIENCE article, these are the human rights they highlighted:

Right to food
Right to health
Right to be remembered
Right to information
Right to education
Right to privacy
Right to a healthy environment
Right to culture

Of course, by far the most populous section was “The Right to Health,” with discussions of communities, cultural context, disparities, vaccines, delayed diagnosis, disasters, social determinants of health, health literacy, and policy loopholes that can be exploited in ways that undermine health rather than promote it. Powerful stuff.

We need to push this out, especially those of us on social media. This is the sort of thing that directly impacts on how the public view science and scientists, and thus has the potential to downstream impact on funding. But that can’t happen unless the public is aware of this, so it’s important to get this out beyond the Academy. It’s important for us to expand upon this, to tell our own stories of why human rights matter to us, why science matters to us. Just as with poets, and pop singers, and athletes, most of us aren’t doing this to get rich, and most of us won’t get rich. Most of us do research because we want to make a difference, we love the science and research and learning new things, and we see exciting opportunities when we place those side by side. How can we help the general public see that in each of us, and in science overall?

More important, can we use articles like this, stories like these to engage with the public in conversations around these topics. Are the rights mentioned here the ones that are actually important to the people around us, and to our society at large? If so, how do we tell those stories so that they see we’re there, too? If not, why not? Is there something people need to know that they don’t? Is there something they know that we don’t? I’m a big fan of the Cochrane Collaboration’s efforts to include patients on the research teams, not only to inform the process and to support “translation” of findings into practice, but perhaps most importantly to shape what questions are asked and studied, to help assure that these are the problems that really matter. Making the stories of science and scientists widely available and engaging with the public around them is the first step in entending that model into all of science. You can help. Share this article, talk about it, challenge it, ask questions, ask for more.