People

Professor Andrea Charise BASc, MA, PhD
Founding Director and Principal Investigator,
SCOPE: The Health Humanities Learning Lab

Andrea Charise 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 HumanitiesEssays 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).


Graduate Researchers

Nehal El-Hadi, PhD Candidate (ABD), Dept. Planning.
I am a writer, researcher, and media producer. My work explores the intersections between technology, the body, and the city. I am currently a doctoral candidate in Planning at the University of Toronto, Canada, where I research how women of colour engage online social media in pursuit of social justice. My interests in Health Humanities lie in the narratives produced by the experiences of racialized and gendered bodies in healthcare settings. These interests overlap with my PhD research in studying how women of colour produce and disseminate narratives about their lived experiences. www.nehalelhadi.com; Twitter: @iamnehal

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.

Robert Laurella, Master’s Degree Candidate, Dept. English
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.


Creatives

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 CommunicationsNow 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


Undergraduate Students

SCOPE Health HumanitiesMariam 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.

img_1363Halima 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.

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.

 

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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.


Alumni

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.

mehdia-headshot-1Mehdia 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.

samirSamir 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.

 

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.