Post by HLTD50 student T.Kamen

“On top of Mt. Batur”. Original photo by TKamen. Photographer: Joken Chiu

Before enrolling into HLTD50 as a health and mental health studies major, a lot of my views on healthcare were very simple. I had a single perspective on understanding health and health stories as that is what I was taught in all my undergraduate classes. Looking back, my understanding of health was very similar to that of what I often think of as a health professional: knowledgable but “professional.” Patients that are ill approach them for help, the doctors listen to the patient’s ailments and provide a solution based on what they hear. However, more often than not these solutions or “cures” prescribed by the doctor only scratch the surface, the patients are not fully understood, and it’s almost as though the health care provider slaps a Band-Aid on the patient as a “fix” and left them on their way.

Although not all doctors may do this, a good number of them do, either due to the lack of time in seeing patients or they simply just hear “I have problem A” and believe that “solution B” will solve it (see Charon’s Narrative Medicine: Honoring Stories of Illness for more on this). Unfortunately, this leads to a big issue in our healthcare system where it is already lacking resources and space for patients. By simply understanding a patients single story they are only solving the issues on the surface and not understanding the patient in what they really need, getting to the root of the problem, which leads to patients coming back. This in turn results in patients taking up spaces in hospitals or healthcare institutions for those actually in need of constant care.


Throughout this course, my eyes were opened up to all the different aspects of an individual’s illness story. I never realized how severe this issue in healthcare was until I learned how to better understand and listen to illness narratives, as well as telling my own. Before I had a very singular understanding of health; now, I have grown to understand all that a narrative has to offer. Not only that, but by understanding and not restricting illness to to a single story through our digital storytelling workshop, I learned to identify personally with aspects of stories as well, although at the surface it may not seem that way at first. HLTD50 allowed me to develop an understanding that stories don’t always have to be #relatable, but by simply choosing to tell your story your own way listeners will eventually ensue. I will forever be grateful for the experience of our digital storytelling workshop as it also opened up my mind to what I thought was my own single story of failing and getting kicked out of school because I’m “dumb”. I remember how I felt alone and how no one would listen when in fact there were people that would listen all along, all I had to do was share. As I worked through creating my digital story I realized there was more to my single story and allowed me to accept my past and finally not feel ashamed of it, where I would simply put a Band-Aid on my failure and move on.

I think throughout my whole undergraduate experience the most memorable would be the last day of the digital storytelling workshop after our screening of everyone’s digital stories. Before that day I only ever talked to a select few individuals who sat around me in classes, I only ever saw them as “classmates” which is typical of most classes I’ve had. However, after our screening of the digital posts I felt a sense of intimacy and closeness with my classmates, maybe not as best friends but a support system of sorts, almost as though everyone had a deeper understanding of each other after that day. I was surprised as I probably had never said more than a handful of words to certain classmates throughout the whole semester but I was having conversations and even hugging some of them after our experience together. After leaving the school that day I felt a sense of happiness, relief, and thought to myself how I will forever be grateful for the experience of this course. Especially for Professor Charise for allowing us to put aside our trivial worries of grades, allowing us to take risks and get out of our comfort zones, which, in almost all of my courses other than ones I’ve had with Professor Charise have never allowed me to do. I will forever hold this experience in my heart with me for the rest of my life along with the memories I’ve made with the amazing group of classmates I had the pleasure of going on this journey with.