Andrea Charise, Founding Director and Principal Investigator
Andrea Charise (BASc, MA, PhD) is Assistant Professor in the new Interdisciplinary Centre for Health & Society (ICHS; formerly Health Studies) at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where she is the lead developer and instructor of Canada’s first undergraduate curriculum in Health Humanities. As well as being recognized for her scholarship in literary studies (including the 2014 Polanyi Prize for Literature), Dr. Charise has more than fifteen years of experience as a medical researcher, primarily in geriatrics and clinical epidemiology. Her award-winning research has appeared in a wide range of peer-reviewed publications, including Health Expectations, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Academic Medicine, Journal of Medical Humanities, Essays in Romanticism, Victorian Studies, and English Literary History. In 2016 she was named Professor of the Year by the University of Toronto’s student journal, The Underground. Dr. Charise speaks regularly at conferences in both the humanities and health sciences; she is a founding Executive Committee member of the Modern Language Association’s new forum on Medical Humanities and Health Studies and serves on the International Advisory Board of the International Health Humanities Network. For more information, visit Dr. Charise’s website or catch her on Twitter (@AndreaCharise).
Dr. Cassandra Hartblay is Assistant Professor in the Interdisciplinary Centre for Health & Society at the University of Toronto Scarborough and graduate faculty in the Department of Anthropology. She is an award-winning scholar of critical disability studies, with a global research focus on contemporary Russia. Dr. Hartblay is a cultural and medical anthropologist whose research practice includes transdisciplinary performance ethnography methods. Her original documentary stage play, I WAS NEVER ALONE, was most recently performed in 2017 at Yale University, and in 2016 at UC San Diego’s Theatre District at La Jolla Playhouse (watch a short video about the project here). She has served as a member of the steering committee of the Disability Research Interest Group of the American Anthropological Association. Dr. Hartblay is a past contributor to the UC Collaboratory for Ethnographic Design, and a current contributor to contra*, the new podcast of the Critical Design Lab at Vanderbilt University. With a focus on global justice, she works to think creatively and empirically about how design and disability access come together in everyday life and in the performance arts.
I am a writer and researcher whose work explores the relationships between the body (racialised, gendered), place (urban, virtual), and technology (internet, health). As a scholar, my hybrid digital/material research methods are informed by my training and experience as a science and environmental journalist. I advocate for the responsible, accountable, and ethical treatment of user-generated content in the fields of journalism, planning, and healthcare. My writing has appeared in academic journals, general scholarship publications, literary magazines, and is forthcoming in several anthologies and edited collections. I am currently a Visiting Scholar at the City Institute at York University and sessional faculty at the Department of Human Geography, University of Toronto Scarborough. www.nehalelhadi.com; Twitter: @iamnehal
Brinnah the dog
Brinnah the dog is the SCOPE Lab’s very own canine in residence. She enjoys watching squirrels, performing tricks for dog treats, and back scratches. Brinnah does her best to remind the humans around her to appreciate the moment, to ask for help when it’s needed, and to recognize that we are all interconnected.
Katherine Shwetz, PhD Candidate (ABD), Dept. English.
While my primary academic training has been in the humanities, and specifically in the study of literature, I have always tried to emphasize the profound intersections between literary experience and lived human experience, particularly where human bodies are concerned. My dissertation (“The Virus in the Garrison: Contagious Disease in Contemporary Canadian Literature”) was borne out of an interest in the “stories” we tell about contagious disease through stigma and rumour, and the way that those stories are either reinforced or challenged in the imaginative world of fiction. Health Humanities not only draws these two interests together, but in doing so produces a whole new field of intellectual inquiry that I find both important and fascinating. As part of SCOPE’s “Pedagogy, Values, Practice” focus, I have also been developing TA resources and tutorial activities for Prof. Charise; this work aims to develop a set of best pedagogical guidelines to cultivate the skills students learn through a study of Health Humanities. These guidelines and activities will not only aid in student learning, but also enrich the opportunities for pedagogical growth through participation in this innovative field.
Stefan Krecsy, PhD Candidate (ABD), Dept. English.
I am currently a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Toronto. My dissertation, “Complex and Novel: The Narrative Turn in Contemporary Risk Management,” explores how storytelling is deployed in fields such as emergency preparedness and public health. My work argues that in response to perceived uncertainty, statistical and actuarial modes of knowledge have been supplemented by a series of narrative techniques. I explore the development and deployment of these techniques from their innovation at the RAND Corporation in the 1950s to their recent application by the Pentagon, the IPCC, and various public health agencies. Tracing this shift from quantitative to qualitative risk management through contemporary fiction as well as representative policy documents, my research argues that narrative and fiction has become central to contemporary techniques of global health security and disaster management. Not only does a Health Humanities approach provide the analytical tools necessary to undertake such research, it also provides a valuable model for how to undertake rigorous academic research across traditional disciplinary boundaries.
Robert Laurella, MA (now PhD Candidate, Oxford University, UK)
My current work focuses on the intersection between Victorian literature and the fields of law and medicine. Novels, plays, and poems offered the Victorian public a variety of mediums through which they could engage with and begin to conceptualize their relationship to, among other things, the medical field, the figure of the doctor, and how medicine fit into their social, political, and cultural landscape. Literature provided Victorian readerships with a battleground in which new ideas about medicine could be entertained, tested, and visualized. The history of public health, especially as it concerns the Victorians, has implications not only for scholars of the nineteenth century, but for a contemporary audience as well. As part of SCOPE’s “Arts, Humanities, and the Public Imagination of Health” focus, my understanding of how those in the past engaged and understood their relationship with medicine helps us better understand contemporary medical issues like vaccine hesitancy. The interdisciplinary nature of the health humanities is crucial in demonstrating how two ostensibly unrelated fields – literature and medicine – can come together to produce fruitful and instructive scholarship.
Celeste Pang, PhD Candidate (ABD), Dept. Anthropology
I am currently a doctoral candidate in Anthropology at the University of Toronto. My dissertation research explores how normative social institutions and their relations shape older LGBTQ people’s experiences of aging and care. My ongoing ethnographic fieldwork for this project is based in Toronto, Ontario, and aligns with SCOPE’s “Age Studies Across the Life Course” focus. Through spending time with older LGBTQ people in their day-to-day lives and as they negotiate health and care related needs, I aim to understand more about how they have navigated and continue to navigate their lives, particularly in relation to normative social imperatives and ideas of health. In turn, I aim to contribute to critical perspectives on aging and dis/ability and to foster further dialogue around citizenship and care relations in later life. A Health Humanities approach that focuses on the intersubjective meanings and dimensions of health opens space for creative inquiries into the processes that shape people’s everyday lives, and for the representation of these stories.
Nicole Dufoe, PhD Candidate, Dept. of English
I am a doctoral candidate in English at the University of Toronto, where my dissertation focuses on the intersection of sleep and narrative form in the Victorian novel. While I work primarily through a literary lens, my research moves beyond the fictional to explore how technological changes—including the technology of the novel—transformed patterns of sleep, attention, and labour in the nineteenth-century. My work also strives to shed light on our own twenty-first-century sense of insomniac exhaustion, as much of what disrupts sleep today—from electric light to round-the-clock mechanized production—has roots in Victorian Britain. In addition to my academic work, I have a background in administration and education at Casey House, a speciality hospital for people living with HIV. At Casey House, I was privileged to witness the impact of a Health Humanities approach to care (including storytelling and arts-based therapies) which I believe is particularly vital when working with populations facing stigma and discrimination.
April Brust, MSc, Scientific Communicator and Visualizer.
Inherently I have a love for art. By education, I grew to respect and enjoy the sciences. Art and the sciences are both true, and therefore compatible. That is my conviction as a scientific communicator and visualizer. Reconciling my love of art with the desire to contribute to the sciences did not come easily for me. An undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins was preparation for medical school, but I hesitated to enter and give up on the arts. So when I heard about a career called medical illustration, everything clicked and the two sides came together. At the University of Toronto’s Biomedical Communications program, I applied everything that I had — homegrown art roots (comics, cartooning), classical realism training at the Schuler School, and studies in the sciences at Johns Hopkins in combination to receive my Master’s of Science in Biomedical Communications. Now I am committed to working at the intersection between science and art, translating scientific and medical concepts and processes into visual mediums. My work as a communicator is to bridge gaps in understanding, whether between a professor to students, doctor to patient, or from peer to peer. I have been proud to work with SCOPE to advance these ideals. www.aprilbrust.com
Kaamil Khalfan, Major in Health Studies (Population Health) with a Double Minor in Psychology and Health Humanities. Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, 2017)
Health Humanities is a discipline that allows for individuals to express health and illness in nonconventional forms, through the use of art and narrative. By looking through the lens of the individual, art and narrative provide an understanding of health and illness that the conventional biomedical framework cannot articulate. Taking health humanities related courses such as Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50) and The Human-Animal Interface (HLTC50) deepened my understanding of how creative arts can be used as therapeutic instruments for health and wellbeing. The material I learned from health humanities courses have empowered me to understand the perspectives of the individual, which I have implemented in my volunteer experience at a local hospital. In the future, I hope to continue my advocacy on the importance of the creative arts in health care settings through the development and improvement of health policies.
Emily Chan, Honours Bachelor of Science, Double Major in Mental Health Studies & Health Policy. Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, 2017).
Health humanities is an unique discipline that offers a powerful lens through which to view ideas of health and illness. How scholars within this field are able to use creative means to express ideas of gender, class, ableism, racism, colonialism, and – more importantly – health, is extremely fascinating to me. I am consistently in awe by the ways advocates for the field come up with to shed light onto traditionally darkened and oppressed narratives, particularly narratives about disease and disability. I am continuously able to see how the concepts learned in courses such as HLTB50 and HLTC50 can be applied to daily life and can cause a shift in how I view the world and the people in it. Health humanities will provide learners a fresh, new outlook on what it means to be healthy and ill and I can’t wait to see how this field continues to advance!
Monika Hirsch, Specialist in Mental Health Studies. Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, Fall 2018).
Health humanities is an enlightening discipline that allows individuals to study human experience through creative and expressive techniques. The humanities take an artistic and personable approach to studying health and illness compared to other disciplines that may embrace more of a biomedical perspective. I believe that what makes the humanities such an inspiring area of study is that it involves constant analysis, reflection, and attention to aesthetics. If you’ve taken the course Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50) or are considering it, be ready to constantly be asking yourself the questions “why does this matter?” and “what is the purpose of this?”. The knowledge that I have gained from this course has transferred into my everyday life and it has helped me gain critical thinking skills which will support me in the rest of my university career. In the future, I hope to apply the knowledge which I have gained from studying the humanities and apply it to areas in sport (such as to sports related concussions and/or injury recovery/return-to-play).
Kristen Cain, Major in Population Health and Mental Health, Minor in Health Humanities. Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, Fall 2018).
After cultivating a love for the arts by way of vocal music, theatre, and writing throughout elementary and high school, I abandoned this passion when I came to university for health sciences . . . or so I thought. Health humanities has taught me that art (visual, musical, written, etc.) is not ‘fluffy’ or ‘extraneous,’ but a necessarily tool with which to improve health outcomes both locally and globally. My particular interests within this discipline are: strengthening patient-provider communication; the development of art-based therapies; and using art as a tool with which to express the unique concerns of marginalized groups. Most saliently, this program has rigorously trained me in empathy, navigating the complexity of human suffering. As I look forward to a career as a health care provider, I cannot imagine who I would have become without training in health humanities. I now move forth in my professional life as a critical and compassionate thinker, social advocate, and reflective lifelong learner.
André Comiran Tonon, medical student, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), and researcher, Laboratório de Cronobiologia e Sono, Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre (HCPA), Porto Alegre, Brazil. SCOPE Research Assistant (2015-ongoing)
My current biomedical research include the relevance of biological rhythms and artificial light in mood disorders, as well as the predictive value of sleep patterns and melatonin levels on treatment of trauma and stress-related disorders. My ongoing work in the field of health humanities focus on the utility of Augusto Boal’s theatrical theories to build strategies of efficient science communication, and on the shared logic of literary dramatic monologues and the clinical staging of mental health therapy. My independent study project entitled “The Clinic of the Unword: When Talk Therapy Becomes a Dramatic Performance”, developed at UTSC with Professor Charise, won an honorable mention for the 2015 Mary Seeman Award for the Achievement in the Area of Psychiatry and the Humanities. When I first talked about Health Humanities to some people I heard things like “Oh, how creative, of you!” or “There could be no one else but you that would spend time ‘having fun’ with these artsy things.” Well, creativity is essential when the subject is the arts and humanities. It’s fun too! However, I want to make people around me realize how this knowledge is also important — not only restricted to the dreamy minds. Health humanities do not necessarily save lives, but for me it was life-changing.
Ayesha Tasneem, Double Major in Neuroscience and Molecular Biology (now medical student, University of Toronto). Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, 2015)
I am passionate about health humanities because it fosters skills as close observation, creativity, and empathy that have enriched both my academic and personal experiences. I am indebted to health humanities for rekindling my appreciation of the arts and providing a space where these interests can flourish alongside an education in the sciences. Studying health humanities at UTSC is an especially rewarding experience due to the diverse talents and perspectives that my peers bring into the classroom.
Chelsea Matson, Double Major in English and Human Biology. ENGD98 Senior Essay and Capstone Seminar 2017-18.
I was introduced to the field of Health Humanities during my third year when I enrolled in both HLTB50 Introduction to Health Humanities and HLTC50 The Human-Animal Interface as elective courses. Through these courses, I realized that my two interests and fields of study in the arts and sciences could converge. These courses fostered and celebrated creative, interdisciplinary, and collaborative thinking. The ideas and texts we studied inspired me afterwards to undertake an independent study project through ENGD98 Senior Essay and Capstone Seminar. With the supervision of Professor Charise, I am currently exploring intertextuality, narrative temporality, and the temporality of illness in female academic cancer narratives.
Mehdia Hassan, Double Major in Health Studies (Health Policy stream) and Psychology (BSc) (now MA Candidate in Social Justice, Lakehead University) . Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, 2016)
As a visual artist with further interests in health, psychology, and social justice, the field of Health Humanities has truly enlightened my understanding of the human experience and has changed the way I conceptualize health. Exploring the interdisciplinary nature of Health Humanities has allowed me to realize that the merging and coexistence of my interests is most definitely possible, especially by providing me with insight about the visual arts’ valuable contribution to the critical study of health. My Health-Humanities-inspired artwork has been showcased at venues including a medical humanities conference by McMaster University, the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library, the Health and Wellness Centre at UTSC, The Broke Gallery and published in UTSC’s Meducate: The Undergraduate Journal of Health. My active involvement in my community of St. James Town, Toronto has also allowed me to experience the deep value of Health Humanities and the visual arts’ meaningful impact on community health: I am the co-founder of Serendipity Visual Arts, a community-award-winning visual arts workshop for underprivileged youth in St. James Town, and in 2016 I received the University of Toronto’s Student Engagement in the Arts Award.
Marcela Costa, medical student, Medicine Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil. SCOPE Research Assistant (2016-ongoing).
As a student of human health (I am currently a medical student and formerly an exchange student in UTSC’s Health Studies (BSc) Co-Op program), I have always searched for a field of study that puts humanity, emotion and creativity front and centre, and I have found it with Health Humanities. This field and the Health Humanities courses offered at UTSC have changed the way I look at the human body, and it has helped me envision exactly the health professional I want to be in the future. I’m currently working on a qualitative research study that explores UTSC students’ experiences of Health Humanities.
Samir Parmar, Double Major in Health Studies (Co-op) and English (now Law student, University of Windsor). Learning Facilitator, The Human-Animal Interface (HLTC50, 2017)
Health Humanities: a unique and creative way of looking at health. Through my time spent in two Health Humanities courses offered at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC), I have been able to appreciate how the arts impact positive health outcomes in the community. While biomedical perspective and disciplines are most often associated with health and illness, courses such as Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50) and The Human-Animal Interface (HLTC50) have both provided me with a change in this perspective. Taking a humanities-based approach to health has allowed me to grow as an academic and undergraduate student. After working in the field with the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) and gaining experience in the field of Public Health, I have returned to work with my peers as a Learning Facilitator in hopes of inspiring other students to think outside of the box, and to help them realize the simple, yet complex relationship between the arts and health. Joining a wonderful team of scholars, Health Humanities at UTSC has enabled me to view health through a critical and subjective lens. I am excited to join the SCOPE: The Health Humanities Learning Lab and look forward to contributing to the growth of Health Humanities as a major health discipline.
Ismat Jahan, BA (Health Studies (Health Policy) with Minors in Anthropology and Sociology). Learning Facilitator, The Human-Animal Interface (HLTC50, 2016)
The HLTC50 Health Humanities course enabled me to develop critical analytical skills necessary to approach health studies in a way that is empathetic, conscious and responsible. The discipline of Health Humanities has also taught me to analyze concepts of health and other everyday phenomenon in the historical, social, political and cultural contexts within which they are embedded. I hope to use the knowledge and skills gained through the discipline not only in guiding me in my future career, but also in the personal life choices that I make.
Raheem Malik, Double Major in Human Biology and Health Studies. Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, 2015)
Health Humanities is a new interdisciplinary field that combines health and art to express moral judgment and experience of pain, suffering, and recovery. Health Humanities looks beyond biology to focus on the individual’s relationship to health and illness issues. In addition to the physical/biological aspects of health, Health Humanities has provided me with insight into how arts and humanities bring out concerns that more conventional disciplinary approaches to health can overlook.
Monica Mwabi, Double Major in Health Studies (BSc) and Mental Health. Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, 2015)
As both a student of and Learning Facilitator for HLTB50 (Introduction to Health Humanities), I learned to fall in love with how health and illness can be explained, studied and understood through the arts. Although Health Humanities is still growing, in the few years of its existence it has brought a new insight in what health truly is. As I continue to learn more about the subject, I hope to one day be part of the community of scholars who contribute to the growth of this unique field.
Mariam Rashid, Double Major in Health Studies (Health Policy) and Human Geography. Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, 2016)
As someone who has a passion for understanding the humanities, I was eager to examine how an interdisciplinary field such as health humanities brings forth discussions regarding disease and illness that can be often overlooked. This field looks beyond the conventional biomedical framework but offers a unique perspective in exploring the layers within health and wellbeing. The main themes discussed in class are very applicable in daily interactions evident after successfully completing health humanities last fall. As a result of enrolling in Health Humanities courses, I am more open to understanding individual narratives and experiences of illness then I was prior to enrolling in these courses.
Miriam Halpern, BA (Health Studies, with minors in Anthropology and English Literature).
Health Humanities is important to me as it allows me to academically and artistically combine my two seemingly disparate interests of writing and health care. At UTSC, these overlapping interests were encouraged within Health Humanities courses, resulting in stimulating coursework that I found myself continuing to ruminate over long after lecture had ended. Health Humanities has also allowed me to form my own research project, investigating the utility of narrative medicine within the midwifery profession, a field which truly excites and compels me. In March 2016 my research project “Narrative Maternity: Designing an Evidence-Based Narrative Training Intervention for Midwifery Professionals” received 1) First Place and 2) People’s Choice Award at 2016 Three-Minute Thesis Competition at the University of Toronto.
Mahnoor Leghari, Double Major in Health Studies (Health Policy Stream) & Human Biology & Minor in Psychology (BSc). Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, 2015), and Undergraduate Research Assistant
Health Humanities is an intriguing field where creative arts, humanities and biomedicine intersect. I find it interesting coming from a biological science background how this interdisciplinary field allows us to think practically and critically on subjects that we “believe” to be black and white. Health Humanities provides a humanistic view of health by considering perspectives at the individual level. It has not only motivated me to practice empathy training and moral reflection in my daily academic and extracurricular life, but has also provided me with a new found love and appreciation of the creative arts. Studying Health Humanities at UTSC has empowered me to embrace my interdisciplinary interest and become a Health Humanities activist. My research project “Core Concerns: Preliminary Findings From A Systematic Curriculum Audit Of North American Undergraduate Health Humanities Programs” provided me with a current, in-depth view of the Health Humanities discipline as it stands in North America. I hope my activism and passion for Health Humanities will help make a lasting impact in the field.
Halima Farah, Double Major in Health Studies (Health Policy) and English. SCOPE Social Media Intern (2016-17) and Learning Facilitator, The Human-Animal Interface (HLTC50, 2017)
As a student double-majoring in Health Studies & English and who is also moonlighting as a writer, the interconnection of health humanities, literature and writing have inspired my perspectives and experiences as a individual. I am deeply interested in the use of different mediums such as art, literature, drama as well as the integration of social media to portray various first-person experiences with the healthcare system. I was able to explore this further in ACTipedia’s first ever Day of Action at UTSC which showcased the invisibility of aging-related content on Wikipedia. The creativity that I have found within myself has stemmed from the ways in which Health Humanities can showcase and portray art while contributing to our understanding of multiple individualistic experiences of health. I currently maintain and handle the social media pages for SCOPE as well as AHA UTSC (Anthropology and Health Studies Association). My work can be found at www.hellohalima.com.
Natasha Leghari, Double Major in Psychology and Health Studies (BA – Health Policy). Learning Facilitator, The Human-Animal Interface (HLTC50, 2016)
Health Humanities provides a very different, arts-based approach to health which I find very fascinating. The use of art in humanities helps to advance a deeper understanding health, illness, suffering, disability, ageing, humans and animals compared to a bio-medical perspective. Health Humanities has given me a new lens in looking at alternate forms of healing an individual especially through the use of narratives, and art. As a student, I find Health Humanities as very crucial to have especially for students who want to consider health care. It forces a person to consider different aspects that are interconnected with health and a person’s overall well being. The materials and knowledge provided in health humanities is very applicable in all daily settings which everyone can benefit from. After successfully completing three Health Humanities courses, I feel well-rounded as a person and in terms of my future studies and profession in the health care system. I feel I am better able to connect to an individual suffering from emotional, mental, physical stressors and provide them support effectively especially by applying the knowledge I have gained to my volunteer experiences in a health care setting.
Krina Patel, Double Major in Neuroscience and Health Studies (Health Policy). Learning Facilitator, Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50, 2017) (now MSc candidate, Global Health, McMaster University).
Through health humanities, creativity can be used to gain a valuable, humanistic understanding of issues surrounding health and illness. The concepts explored in the field of health humanities are extremely relevant and through the courses offered at UTSC I was able to recognize that relevance and make those necessary connections between art and health. Health humanities does the important work of bringing together the worlds of science and arts and as a student double majoring in both Neuroscience (BSc) and Health Studies (BA) I found the courses health humanities extremely refreshing form typical science or arts courses. After completing Introduction to Health Humanities (HLTB50) and The Human-Animal Interface (HLTC50) I can safely say that these courses provided the most unique experience of my undergraduate career.