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Nick Allen, MA

Headshot of Nick Allen

Program Manager at NC A&T Transportation Institute

Alumnus of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2019)
Former HHIVE Lab Coordinator & Website Designer and Communicator  

Nick came to Carolina from Virginia Tech where he graduated with dual degrees in Professional & Technical Writing and Literature & Culture. Faculty members there sparked his interest in Health Humanities and lead him towards an honors thesis which considered three of Hemingway’s works as illness narratives, both to confront Hemingway through an alternative lens and to consider the value and applicability of his work to modern patients of chronic suffering, terminal illness, and aging. At UNC, Nick explored other aspects of the aging experience and how we might confront these inevitable challenges with grace and sagacity. Read Kate Capitano’s alumni spotlight blog post about Nick on our website.

Mary Carol Barks, MA

Headshot of Mary Carol Barks

Associate in Research at Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy

Alumna of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2019)

Mary Carol Barks holds a B.A. from Auburn University where she studied English Literature with an interest in the medical humanities and multidisciplinary research. Mary Carol is an Associate in Research at Duke University’s Margolis Center for Health Policy where she studies doctor-patient communication and shared decision-making, particularly when patients experience life-threatening illness. Mary Carol hopes to continue this line of research, helping clinicians guide their patients through challenging treatment decisions that effectively coincide with each patient’s values, goals, and life as a whole.

Jesse Bossingham, MA

Medical Student at UNC School of Medicine

Alumnus of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2022)

Jesse Bossingham completed the MA program while enrolled in the MD program at UNC School of Medicine. His capstone project explored representations of dementia and he plans to practice geriatric medicine.

Kate Capitano

Administrative Associate at the NC Department of Health and Human Services

Undergraduate Alumna (2021)

Major in Health Policy and Management
Minor in Medicine, Literature, and Culture

As a pre-med student who has little interest in hard science, I struggled for a while to find a way to connect my passion for medical care and my interest in social science. Health humanities provides a way to study people and populations that allows me to promote health and happiness without forgetting the actual personhood of the people I’m studying. By combining work with HHIVE and my major in the school of public health, I feel that I will have a well rounded view of medicine and culture that will make my practice as a medical provider more holistic and personal. I am particularly interested in women’s health and hope to advocate for reproductive rights in my writing.

Savannah Bateman, MA

Alumna of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2021)

Savannah graduated from the MA program in 2021. 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.

Molly Brewer Peterson, MS, OTR/L

Molly Claire Brewer

Occupational Therapist Consultant at Person County Group Homes

Alumna of Master’s Program in Occupational Therapy (2017)

Molly graduated from the UNC program for Occupational Therapy, was a study coordinator for the HHIVE Lab, and a member of the Literature, Medicine, and Culture Colloquium. She studies in the intersection of healthcare and humanities and her research and involvement with the HHIVE focused on how humanities can inform health care practices and the patient experience. For example, Molly took a course on technology and medicine focused around the adaptive and assistive devices used by individuals who have physical disabilities, cognitive impairment, low vision, hearing impairment, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. The course asks how accommodations can be made to allow patients to access their environment more easily.

As the study coordinator for the Falls study, Molly facilitated the group’s journey through the IRB process and continues to support the principle investigators through recruiting. After graduate school, Molly plans to become an occupational therapist and is interested in working with older adults, specifically older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, as well as co-morbid Alzheimer’s and other dementia related diseases.

Kaitlin Cruz

Cruz_Portrait 2x2

Undergraduate Alumna

Major in Clinical Laboratory Science/Nursing
Minor in Medicine, Literature, and Culture

Kaitlin first heard about the HHIVE Lab at an interest session about the Literature, Medicine, and Culture minor. She already knew she wanted to go into medicine, but the idea of examining the field through a lens other than science never really occurred to her. She was very interested in delving into this subject, as healthcare is a major part of society that affects much more than just the wellbeing of a population. She wanted to be part of a team that helped expand this new field and improved the way people look at health and wellbeing. Besides that, the interdisciplinary work HHIVE is carrying out fit well with her personal interest in the arts and humanities. The blending of fields she cared about while being able to learn more about and possibly improve healthcare are why she enjoyed working in the HHIVE Lab.

See some of Kaitlin’s work on “The Evolution of Body Donation” and “TEDxUNC Extends the Meaning of Health”.

Mili Dave

Undergraduate Alumna (2022)

Double Major in Chemistry and Biology
Minor in Medical Anthropology

As a student with an interdisciplinary love for the hard sciences and humanities, I strove at the beginning of undergrad to find an outlet merging my academic interests together. Studying the health humanities is the perfect blend of these passions, enabling me to examine patient care through humanistic lenses of emotion and interaction. I ultimately hope to translate the valuable insights into healthcare I gain through my writing at HHIVE in my practice as a future physician. I am particularly interested in pursuing trauma and critical care, and want to deepen my understanding of individual patient experiences in the field of medicine.

See some of Mili’s reflections on Health Humanities Grand Rounds talks by Danielle Ofri, Damon Tweedy, and Ada Adimora.

Pragnya Dontu

Headshot of Pragnya DontuUndergraduate Alumna

Double Major in Chemistry and Biophysics
Minor in Neuroscience

Dance & Diabetes Study

“As someone who has always been passionate about science and medicine, I am really interested in delving deeper into the humanities side of healthcare. This field relies on so many factors in order to successfully treat patients, and I hope to gain a better understanding of the different subject that contribute to this successful experience through the HHIVE lab.”

Anne Feng, MD

Headshot of Anne Feng, an Asian American woman with long black hair. She is wearing a purple blouse and black blazer and is smiling at the camera.

Resident Physician
Undergraduate Alumna (2018)

Anne Feng fondly remembers reading illness narratives as a student in LMC classes because they helped her realize the type of care she wants to provide as a physician. Anne recently graduated from Harvard Medical School and is working towards becoming an ENT surgeon. Learn more about Anne in this alumni profile.

Caroline Fryar, MD

CFryar headshot

UNC School of Medicine Alumna (2021)
Undergraduate Alumna

Double Major in Classics and German
Minor in Chemistry

When Caroline joined the lab, she was looking to find a community of people who wanted to discuss health care in an interdisciplinary, challenging, interesting way, something that she believed can get lost in the day-­to-­day of providing patient care. Prior to HHIVE, she had never worked in humanities research before. She wanted to learn new methodologies and approaches to research other than the empirical/quantitative work she was already used to. Learn more about Caroline in this alumni profile.

Austin Hopkins, MD, MA

Resident Physician in Psychiatry at Northwestern Medicine

Alumnus of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2021) and UNC School of Medicine (2021)

Austin earned his M.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and 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 studied 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.

Katie Huber, MPH

Headshot of Katie Huber

Policy Analyst at Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy

UNC Gillings School of Public Health MPH Alumna (2020)
Undergraduate Alumna (2018)

Double Major in Anthropology and Medical Humanities
Minor in Biology

Katie first heard about the HHIVE Lab during her sophomore year at UNC and was involved with the lab since. She assisted with the Falls Study, where she transcribed interviews, compiled and annotated bibliography, and designed graphics. After she completed her honors thesis and her undergraduate studies, Katie graduated from the MPH program at the UNC Gillings School of Public Health.

Find a sample of Katie’s HHIVE work on “Active Minds at Carolina Presents: At the Intersection of Race and Mental Health” and read more about her in this alumni profile.

Rabab Husain, MA

Alumna of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2020)

Rabab holds a B.S in Psychology from UNC Chapel Hill, where she also studied English Literature and completed pre-med courses. While writing papers on the impact of literature on empathy and Theory of Mind for her psychology courses, she found herself interested in the application of the humanities towards the medical field. As an M.A student, Rabab researched the intersection of religion, culture, and medicine via the narratives of Muslims and South Asians involved in medical humanitarianism. She hopes this research and the skills from the program will support her in becoming a more knowledgeable and effective physician in the future.

Sakari Law

Undergraduate Alumna, ECL concentration in Science, Medicine, and Literature (2021)

Sakari plans to pursue 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.”

Emily Long, MA

Medical Student at UNC School of Medicine
Alumna of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2020)
Undergraduate Alumna (2019)

Double Major in English & Comparative Literature and Biology

Former HHIVE Grand Rounds Coordinator

Emily holds a B.S. in Biology with a second major in English with Highest Honors and a minor in Medicine, Literature, and Culture from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As an undergraduate, Emily conducted research within the medical humanities by spending a summer studying access to health care in rural communities using both qualitative and quantitative methods. She also composed a senior English honors thesis under the direction of Dr. Eliza Richards in which she used a psychosocial framework to consider how works of gothic fiction portrayed women’s mental health. Her MA research focused on pre-trauma theory in nineteenth-century American literature.

Maebelle Matthew


Behavioral Health Care Manager at National Health Corps in Raleigh, NC

Undergraduate Alumna (2019)

Major in Biochemistry
Minor in Medicine, Literature, and Culture

I have always had a passion for the humanities, but I never knew how I could incorporate it into my dream career in medicine and the sciences. I have always been looking for ways to connect the humanities and the sciences during my undergraduate career and beyond. When I found out about the HHIVE lab, I knew this was one way that I could form the connection I desired. Working at the HHIVE lab helps me look at medicine and diseases in a new perspective, which is very valuable when trying to fully understand a problem. I want to be able to view and understand the medical field in as many ways as possible, and the HHIVE lab helps me achieve this goal.

See some of Maebelle’s work with the HHIVE Lab, including the Dance & Diabetes study, on Reflections on Ellen Perry’s ‘My Life and My Work in Disability Advocacy’ Talk.

Lorena Millo

Headshot of Lorena MilloMedical Student at UNC School of Medicine 

Undergraduate Alumna (2017)

Double Major in English & Comparative Literature and Business Administration
Minor in Chemistry

Falls Narrative Study

As an undergraduate, Lorena was a dual English and Business Administration major and student researcher for the Falls Narrative Study. Her Honors Thesis about representations of organ transplantation was awarded the James L. Whitfield Jr. Memorial Prize by the Department of English. After graduating in 2017, she went on to complete a post-baccalaureate premed program at Goucher College and then worked as a Research Associate in the Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University. She is now a medical student at UNC.

Lorena returned to the Department of English & Comparative Literature in October 2021 for a panel discussion of recent alumni to celebrate the Department’s 225th anniversary. You can see more about the panel on the event page. You can also read more about her in this alumni profile.

Manisha Mishra, MA

Photo of Manisha Mishra at the old well

Medical Student at Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine

M.A. in Medicine, Health and Society from Vanderbilt University (2019)
Undergraduate Alumna (2018)

Double major in Biology and Interdisciplinary Studies: Medical Humanities
Minor in Chemistry

Manisha Mishra is a 2018 UNC graduate from Mooresville, North Carolina who majored in Biology (B.S.) and Interdisciplinary Studies: Medical Humanities (B.A.) and minored in Chemistry. Frustrated with the monotonous pre-medical experience she was receiving, she decided to branch out and take a literature and medicine course which ultimately was the gateway for her love for Medical Humanities. Since then, Manisha has become a huge advocate for this interdisciplinary field as it has helped bring in a new refreshing perspective to her education. She is particularly interested in the variation of rhetoric in narratives that result from one’s experience with illness. She was awarded the 2017 Burch Fellowship, allowing her to conduct research in London with the program Performing Medicine regarding the role of arts-based pedagogy in medical training for clinical empathy development. This set the foundation for her Honors Thesis which focused on theory and practices of clinical empathy. She was also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Health Humanities Journal of UNC-CH and was a student researcher in the Falls Narrative Study. 

After Manisha graduated from the Medicine, Health, and Society M.A. program at Vanderbilt University, she was a Research Coordinator in Emergency Medicine at NYU Langone Health. In her free time, she can be found practicing yoga, rereading her favorite novels The Goldfinch and The Namesake, and going on random adventures. 

Manisha returned to HHIVE in November 2021 for an alumni career panel. You can view the event on YouTube.

Calvin Olsen, MA, MFA


PhD Student in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media (CRDM) at NCSU

Alumnus of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2018)

Calvin Olsen holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University, where he received a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship. His poetry and translations have appeared in The Missouri Review Online, Tar River Poetry, Poetry DailyColumbia, Salamander, and many other journals and anthologies. Recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Best New Poets anthology, Calvin is currently co-poetry editor of The Carolina Quarterly and is completing translations of Portuguese poet João Luís Barreto Guimarães’s newest book, Mediterrâneo, and the collected works of the late Alberto de Lacerda.

Kaylyn Pogson, MA

Picture of Kaylyn Pogson posing with a dogMedical Student at UNC School of Medicine

Alumna of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2018)
Undergraduate alumna (2017)

Double Major in English & Comparative Literature and Biology
Minor in Medicine, Literature, and Culture

Kaylyn moved to the Triangle from South Africa, completing her undergraduate career at UNC with Biology and English majors. While at UNC, she focused heavily on the medical humanities, with her study culminating in a lengthy honors thesis on breast cancer narratives at different points in time and through various genres. She used her thesis to examine why women afflicted by breast cancer seem to possess an unusual drive to write about their experiences, as well as their perceptions of the unique threats on femininity that breast cancer imposes with an emphasis on the effects of different timepoints and genres on the illness experience and its narrative, respectively.

As an M.A. student, Kaylyn continued to study breast cancer illness narratives with a greater emphasis on their theoretical frameworks, and was particularly interested in the question of how different and developing genres are used to address the question of how to most effectively convey the illness experience. Kaylyn took advantage of the interdisciplinary nature of the program with classes in English, biology, medicine, and public health. She plans to use her medical humanities training as a physician focused on humanism in patient-centered care. Kaylyn is now enrolled at the UNC Medical School.

Brandon Rogers, MA


Health Communications Specialist at Americares

PhD candidate in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media (CRDM) from NCSU
Alumnus of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2017)

As a student who graduated from the University of Central Arkansas with a B.S. in Biological Physics and a double minor in Interdisciplinary Studies and Creative Writing, Brandon has always taken a “left-brain/right-brain” approach to his studies. However, it wasn’t until he enrolled in a literature and medicine course that he realized how the humanities could shape his research interests in science, virtual reality, and medicine. At UNC, Brandon was part of the first cohort of the Literature, Medicine and Culture master’s program.

Additionally, Brandon was Community Resources Manager for HHIVE and organized volunteers, coordinated outreach events, and connected with scholars in neighboring programs at Duke University and North Carolina State University. His research includes critical making processes (how the act of making can also function as a critique of the object in itself, such as a technological piece that also critiques the society for which it is developed for) and game studies. When he is not playing games you can find him running half marathons and practicing studio art. Currently, he’s looking at master’s programs in neuroengineering and electrical engineering, as well as PhD programs in communication and Science and Technology Studies (STS). He aspires to go into either academia or industry, but ideally both.

Brandon returned to HHIVE in November 2021 for an alumni career panel. You can view the event on YouTube.

Nakisa Sadeghi

Nakisa SadeghiMedical Student at UNC School of Medicine
MPH Student at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health

Undergraduate HHIVE Alumna (2017)

Major in French and Francophone Studies
Minors in Business Administration and Chemistry

Nakisa Sadeghi is currently in her third year of medical school, but she has not forgotten the lessons taught to her by the health humanities. While at UNC, Nakisa was a part of Professor Thrailkill & Professor Jack’s inaugural ENGL 690 (now ENGL 695) class, which gave students hands-on experience developing research projects in health humanities. Along with Izzy Pinheiro and Sam Weeks, Nakisa designed and implemented the Music Study to measure the impact of live music in waiting rooms. The class had a lasting impact on how Nakisa understands physician-patient relationships and patient communication.

During the 2018-2019 academic year, Nakisa was presented with an exciting opportunity: she took a leave of absence from her medical program to pursue a fellowship in health policy. One of her former associates had recently become the president of Planned Parenthood and Nakisa was awarded a fellowship to work as their Special Assistant. Once there, she worked at the Planned Parenthood national office to advance a vision of reproductive healthcare as healthcare and led and contributed to various initiatives to help depoliticize reproductive healthcare. The fellowship also allowed Nakisa to work at the George Washington University’s School of Public Health as a Visiting Scholar, researching and writing on various issues in public health from maternal mortality and opioid addiction to the emergency response to coronavirus, and then as a Senior Fellow at the Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation where she researched medical care for immigrant children and families.

Shatakshi Shekhar

Shekhar_Shatakshi HHIVE Writing Diabetes Volunteer

Consultant at Clarkson Consulting

Undergraduate Alumna (2018)

Major in Global Studies
Minor in Hindi and Neuroscience

Dance & Diabetes Study

“HHIVE Lab combines two of my passions, humanities and medicine. I had done an internship at a gynecologist’s private practice my junior year of high school. One thing she said to me has stuck with me till this day: “Many people believe medicine is just science. People forget the people aspect of medicine.” By the people aspect, she was referring to the patient’s culture, religion and socio-economic status and seeing the relationship between how those two can affect the patient’s health. Some religions such as Islam forbid Muslims to eat Pork. Is there are correlation between Muslims and obesity or Muslims in heart disease? Are there lower rates of heart disease in Muslims since they are not eating that red meat? A Hindu diet has a tendency to be on the no red meat side and a more vegetarian side. Is that why Hindu’s may be deficient in protein (a source for 10 of the 20 amino acids)? These questions come to my mind and I believe that HHIVE lab is the best place to start discovering the answers to these questions.”

Sarah Singer, PhD

Sarah Singer

Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida
Alumna of English & Comparative Literature PhD Program (2019)
Originally from Maryland, Sarah moved to North Carolina for graduate school in 2013.  Her experiences as a Lyme Disease patient and sexual health peer-educator when she was at the University of Maryland sparked her interest in health humanities. Both of these experiences taught her that health and medicine–language, experiences, treatments, and more– are constructed rhetorically, meaning that they are interpretive and that we can understand them in different ways through a humanistic lens.

In the HHIVE, Sarah worked with Jordynn Jack and Jen Stockwell on the Writing Diabetes Project. Outside of the HHIVE, she completed a dissertation project about the visual and textual rhetorics of Lyme Disease. Her related research interests include the rhetoric of health and medicine; disability studies; visual ethnography and visual rhetoric; gender and sexuality; feminist historiography; and writing in the disciplines. While at UNC, she taught ENGL 105 and ENGL 105i: Health and Medicine, and has been a teaching assistant for WMST 101, ENGL 611, and the UNC Warrior-Scholar Project.

Megan Swartzfager, MA

Health Program Analyst II – Medical Writer and Editor at the LA County Department of Public Health

Alumna of English MA concentration in Literature, Medicine, and Culture (2021)

Megan was the HHIVE Lab Research Assistant and Health Humanities Grand Rounds coordinator while earning her MA in LMC. 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 studied the deployment of gendered rhetoric in the professionalization of American nursing and to continue pursuing research about the social determinants of health.

Megan returned to HHIVE in November 2021 for an alumni career panel. You can view the event on YouTube.

Spencer Tackett

Master of Social Work student at North Carolina State University

Undergraduate Alumna (2020)

Major in English & Comparative Literature, concentration in Science, Medicine, and Literature
Minor in Medical Anthropology

I am a lifelong lover of stories and a newfound lover of learning about health, healthcare, and medicine. HHIVE allows me to join my two passions and focus on reading and sharing stories of illness. My goal as a HHIVE volunteer is to learn more about the field of medicine, to view that knowledge through the lens of literature and storytelling, and share it with my peers. Language and storytelling are two of our superpowers as humans, and I want to use that superpower to help current and future physicians give their patients the best care possible.

Sam Weeks

Headshot of Sam WeeksMedical Student at Emory University SOM

Undergraduate Alumnus (2017)

Major in Biology

A native of the mountains of Western North Carolina, Sam moved to Chapel Hill to start his undergraduate career in 2013. He has Bachelors degrees in Biology and English with a minor in Chemistry from UNC. He spent two years of his adolescence living with his family in Nairobi, Kenya, an experience that opened him to the realities of injustice and poverty and set him on a trajectory of pursuing a career of medicine. Sam’s love of literature and preference for people over science textbooks led him to the field of Health Humanities, and he directed some of his undergraduate studies in the Department of English and Comparative Literature towards that field. As a student in what is now ENGL 695, he and two other students conducted a study examining the effects of live musical performance in hospital waiting room environments. You can find out more about that project here (link to the Music Study page here).

Sam worked as the HHIVE’s volunteer coordinator. His interests include Early Modern literature (particularly John Milton and John Donne), the doctor-patient relationship, and conceptions of morality in illness. He hopes to pursue a career in medicine in the coming years.

A sample of Sam’s undergraduate work with the lab may be found on Reflections on the Interprofessional Education Training.