Undergraduate Research Assistants
While I have always acknowledged the importance of biomedicine, the health humanities at UNC have taught me that there is more to determining whether someone is healthy. In recent years, I’ve become interested in the practice of alternative medicine, especially those in other cultures. In America, it is easy to think that a prescription drug is the only thing that can treat disease, when in reality total healing comes from addressing the physical, emotional, and mental health of the body. I think that teaching the health humanities to aspiring physicians during undergrad and medical school will produce better doctors. The health humanities is the key to providing patients with the best care and treatment.
My interest in medicine and medical humanities arose from witnessing a diverse spectrum of healthcare across nations. During my own journey as a patient, I travelled in hopes of finding better medical care— an experience which opened my eyes to various approaches to patient care as well as the various exchanges that take place in spaces of healing. Through observing and experiencing the exhilarating impacts of healing, I developed a deep appreciation for medicine; however, I realized that healing was centered around numerical charts and vitals, with less regard to the individuality of patients themselves. This realization has led to my interest in medical humanities as I am fascinated by the dynamics of physician-patient interactions and ways such interactions can be further strengthened for better care.
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.
As a student-researcher in bioinformatics and oncology, Gargi is looking forward to exploring her interests in the health humanities through HHIVE. She was introduced to the health humanities through a reading group called Narratives in Medicine at UNC, where she learned a lot about health inequities and the history of healthcare in the US through the texts discussed. She’s interested in narrative medicine and in exploring how different cultural backgrounds influence healthcare experiences and outcomes. As a birth doula, she hopes to integrate her volunteer experiences with her work at HHIVE.
Noelle Angelique Escobal
Noelle Escobal is a junior majoring in English and Comparative literature with a minor in Chemistry. Her interest in the Health Humanities stems from a curiosity in how her humanities major can intersect with STEM and other health related fields. She is also a passionate food blogger, and now serves as part of UNC’s first undergraduate culinary medicine club where she can engage in both her love of food and learn more about nutritional values in health and medicine. As a pre-med student, her goal is to approach the health institution with a food-minded perspective that empowers patients and other healthcare providers to engage in healthy lifestyles. She finds the exposure to health and humanities as well as nutritional education central to developing healthier, more modern medical practices as well as better patient-centered healthcare providers.
Undergraduate Student, BA Chemistry
Throughout my academic career, I have fostered interests in the hard sciences as well as humanities, which have grown to center around medicine and healthcare. The health humanities is a means to merge these interests. I am particularly drawn to using a narrative lens to understand populations being served, healthcare inequality, and how to cultivate a patient-centered approach to medicine. The humanities offers a widely digestible platform for the nuances and inequality of medicine to be examined and shared, with the goal of improving healthcare for all. Through the HHIVE Lab, I am excited for the opportunity to cultivate my interest in the health humanities and contribute to its efforts.
When Baylee Materia made the decision to enter college as a STEM major, she assumed that she would have to toss her love of humanities aside. Discovering the HHIVE lab taught her not only that she can merge these seemingly contrasting passions of hers, but that an interdisciplinary approach is essential in a pre-medical curriculum. The job of a physician goes beyond the concrete science and technical intellect; one must be emotionally intelligent and able to understand the complex socioeconomic and cultural determinants of health. With a background in the health humanities, Baylee hopes to become a member of a new generation of healthcare professionals that approaches their work with a more nuanced and compassionate perspective.
Tulsi Patel has always thought that her love for the hard sciences and her appreciation for cultural studies had to be isolated. The realm of health humanities proves that these two fields can be meaningfully melded together. She is specifically interested in how cultural values affect people’s perceptions of health and how that influences their healthcare experiences. She aims to learn more about these topics in the context of the Asian-American community and rural populations. HHIVE offers the opportunity to bridge her majors while providing the humanistic, narrative-driven side of medicine. She ultimately hopes to become more informed about how culture drives the patient experience and to gain a holistic perspective of what it means to be healthy.
Sarah is currently in her third year of her undergraduate degree at Carolina. As a pre-med student, she became interested in health humanities after taking English 105i in her first year. She had never been exposed to the idea of medical practice should not be limited to the Western, biomedicine model, and this drew her attention to the field. Sarah is primarily interested in physician-patient relationships and the way in which these relationships can be improved to save lives by focusing on the patient’s culture and experiences. Outside of the HHIVE Lab, Sarah also volunteers as the Hospital and Family Relations Chair for Carolina for the Kids, and as a patient transporter at the UNC Medical Center. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to earn a master’s degree in Medicine, Literature, and Culture, and then attend medical school.
Abigail Pugh is a current sophomore from Raleigh, NC, who plays on the women’s club lacrosse team and is on the Executive Branch’s Student Wellness and Safety Staff. Her interest in the health humanities stems from a project she conducted in a first year seminar centered around the Stories to Save Lives Project, in which the class investigated the oral histories of a wide array of individuals within North Carolina. Specifically, Abigail is passionate about the variance within maternal mortality rates in the current U.S between women of different races, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and other divisive identifying characteristics. She is a firm believer that an individual’s explanatory model within medicine is directly correlated with certain societal expectations and modes of oppression they may or may not be exposed to on a daily basis outside of healthcare. Her goal is not to become a physician, nurse, or medical professional, but instead to work on the administrative side of healthcare to diminish the inequalities and inequities that prevent all people to getting equitable access to care and treatments. She also has a great passion towards achieving total childhood literacy within the U.S as an individual’s literacy rate is a direct predictor of later success in life and the ability to break free from generational cycles of crime, poverty, abuse, and addiction.
Teja’s interest in the humanities greatly outweighed her interest in medicine. She never wanted to get into the nitty-gritty science stuff that she grew up believing doctors and healthcare professionals did. She’d always assumed that eventually, she needed to give one up to have the other. Coming to UNC and having the privilege to get involved in organizations such as HHIVE and take classes in the health humanities showed her not only how possible it is to have both but how vital it is. Teja learned that the key to being a good healthcare professional is to have an in-depth understanding of the population you serve, which is only possible through the health humanities. In the future, she hopes to serve the underprivileged population of North Carolina, and someday beyond, by employing this knowledge and expertise in the hard sciences and humanities. She hopes to bridge healthcare gaps and improve health infrastructure. She is committed to ensuring that health knowledge, health literacy, and health competence are readily accessible to all individuals.
Katy is pursuing a major in both English and Psychology and a minor in Journalism at UNC. Prior to attending UNC, Katy worked on a research project testing the feasibility of utilizing virtual reality technology to create a concussion rehabilitation tool. Her research project furthered her interest in the intersection between medicine and the humanities, specifically relating to altering the public narrative surrounding concussions and traumatic brain injuries. She hopes to continue to explore her interests in the health humanities through projects in the lab.
As a black student growing up in rural North Carolina, learning in an educational curriculum that was primarily centered around white voices and white stories made it difficult for me to find my place as a writer and storyteller. In recent years, through seeking mentors, role models, and diversified courses I have been able to gain exposure to historically unheard narratives. The experiences and perspectives that I gained from hearing these narratives have encouraged me to find my own voice through writing/storytelling while also revealing that I, too, can have an impact on students like myself. Listening and advocating for marginalized communities is a practice that I strive to further develop every day. Currently, I work as a NA I at UNC Hospitals and I view the time I spend with my patients as a learning experience on how I can further understand the life stories of others. With one of my goals being to become a physician, it is my goal to listen, understand, and validate the stories, perspectives, and experiences of my patients. I hope to eventually do work in preventive medicine in rural communities to aid in eliminating healthcare disparities such as access to healthcare.