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Current Students

Ariana Ávila

PhD Student, Graduate Certificate in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Ariana Ávila is a doctoral student in medical/sociocultural anthropology interested in how U.S. immigration policies affect access to health care for individuals and families with undocumented or precarious immigration status, particularly among farmworkers from Haiti working and living in the agricultural hubs of Southwest Florida. She is also interested in the collective agency in responding to barriers in health and systems of power. As a part of the Graduate certificate in Literature, Medicine, and Culture, she is interested in strengthening her creative writing skills as a way to share her research. She is from Arcadia, Florida, an agricultural town in Southwest Florida. She earned her B.S. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of South Florida and her MPH from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. Prior to beginning her doctoral program, she was a Global Health Fellow with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

Savannah Bateman

Master’s Student, Concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Savannah is an M.A. student at UNC with a concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture. She is from the small town of Kitty Hawk, located on the Outer Banks, NC. She earned her B.A. in English Literature with two minors in biology and chemistry from Western Carolina University. As an undergraduate, she was primarily interested in interdisciplinary research and medicine. She has a work history in emergency medical Services and medical transportation services, which primarily drives her research interests in the health humanities, focusing on bibliotherapeutic techniques in chaotic work environments, trauma theory, and rhetorical analysis of the metaphorical language in EMS provider personal narratives.

Paul Blom

PhD Student, Graduate Certificate in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Paul is pursuing his PhD in English at UNC-Chapel Hill. Originally from LaGrange, GA, he received his BA in English from Birmingham-Southern College and his MA in English Literature from DePaul University. Paul’s research focuses on twentieth-century American literature and its intersections with health humanities and literary trauma studies, primarily the ethical and political implications of representations of psychological trauma in literature and other media. His research has also involved extensive work with underserved populations regarding trauma, illness, embodiment, and representation. He currently serves as the co-director for UNC’s Literature, Medicine, and Culture Colloquium.

Mindy Buchanan-King

PhD Student, Graduate Certificate in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Mindy Buchanan-King is pursuing her Ph.D. in English Literature at UNC Chapel Hill. Mindy is originally from Virginia and received her B.A. from Emory & Henry College and her M.A. from the College of Charleston. Her master’s thesis focused on Edith Wharton’s use of Romanticism in conceptualizing the artistic self in Hudson River Bracketed. Her graduate research is currently focused on women authors of late 19th-/early 20th-century American fiction and the function of science and medicine in such works. She’s also interested in representations and interpretations of the body in wartime medical photography.

Austin Hopkins

Master’s Student, Concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture


Austin is an M.D. candidate at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and is pursuing a dual M.A. in English, concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture. He earned his B.A. in Mathematical Statistics with minors in Biology and Chemistry from Wake Forest University. He plans to practice medicine as a psychiatrist, and is particularly interested in trauma, LGBTQ+ health, narrative medicine, eating disorders, and incarcerated health. He is a writer, having published numerous essays in platforms including Doximity Op-Med and The International Journal of Prisoner Health as well as an autobiographical creative non-fiction book entitled The Loose Ends Became Knots: An Illness Narrative. As a master’s student, he plans to study how the health humanities can provide an integrated approach to the conceptualization, understanding, and treatment of trauma as well as engaging in archival research in the field of asylum studies.

Sakari Law

Undergraduate Student, BA/MA Program in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Sakari is a junior in the B.A./M.A. program at UNC Chapel Hill currently seeking a degree in English and a minor in chemistry. She plans to matriculate into the M.A. program in Fall 2022.

Sakari is pursuing a career in medicine as a physician assistant. She currently works with patients who experience a wide range of pain problems, and that work experience has influenced how she approaches health and medicine. She must take thoughtful consideration of her patients and consider their welfare more than her own desires, a skill that chemistry and biology does not teach. Writing a science proposal project as a freshman and reading Black Man in a White Coat by Damon Tweedy have also shaped how she thinks about her role as a clinician. The opportunity to become the best physician comes not only with being able to treat and diagnose your patients, but also having the ability to imagine the predicament of another person. The LMC program has encouraged her to reflect on her own understandings, challenge her beliefs and find gaps in her reasoning. Studying this patient-doctor relationship has changed how she looks at the world and its people. She emphasizes that this ongoing process of understanding and developing oneself is necessary to provide care for others. Healthcare is a human interaction that needs to be reflected upon in a way that doesn’t take for granted something that “simply exists.”

Elisabeth McClanahan Harris

PhD Student, Graduate Certificate in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Elisabeth McClanahan Harris is pursuing a Ph.D. in English at UNC Chapel Hill, with a focus on 19th century American literature and medicine. She received her B.A. in Humanities from Columbia International University, and her M.A. in English from George Washington University. Her graduate research studies how changing theories of mental illness and its treatment were encoded in congregate care institutions over the course of the 19th century. She draws on a varied archive of patient memoirs, journalistic exposes, and fictional depictions of congregate care, to investigate entanglements of race, gender, and disability in questions of mental healthcare.

Megan Swartzfager

Master’s Student, Concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Megan is pursuing an MA in English with a concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture and serving as a HHIVE Lab Research Assistant and Health Humanities Grand Rounds coordinator. She received her BA in English with a minor in Society and Health from the University of Mississippi. Her undergraduate research focused on social determinants of health and the politicization of medical knowledge, but her honors thesis focused on the persistent collective traumas of slavery and its descendants. At UNC, Megan plans to study the deployment of gendered rhetoric in the professionalization of American nursing and to continue pursuing research about the social determinants of health.