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Since 2016, the Health Humanities Grand Rounds Carolina Seminar has hosted a monthly speaker series that has grown into a robust discussion venue for students and faculty from across UNC’s campus and beyond. Speakers are invited to give problem-based talks and lead discussion about their research, raising methodological or theoretical questions to spark conversation and collaboration. By both promoting interdisciplinary research and providing an occasion for faculty and students from across departments and divisions to come together, Health Humanities Grand Rounds has become a touchstone of health humanities collaborations at UNC.

During the 2020-2021 academic year, Health Humanities Grand Rounds events will take place via Zoom. See below for details about how to register for upcoming events. We will continue to update this page as we book speakers, hold events, and upload videos.


2020-2021 Speakers

Damon Tweedy, MD (Duke University School of Medicine)

Reflections on Race and Medicine in the Year of COVID-19 and Nationwide Protests

September 1, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined an ugly light on the longstanding racial and ethnic health disparities that persist in our country. Coupled with the televised murder of George Floyd, these events have sparked a renewed racial reckoning in America.

In his talk, Dr. Tweedy will explore the dilemma of race within the medical school and hospital setting, highlighting the challenges faced by black patients and black doctors while reviewing recent developments and reforms in the field.

Damon Tweedy, MD is an associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine and staff psychiatrist within the Durham Veteran Affairs Health Care System. He completed both medical school and his specialty training at Duke. Within the VA system, he directs a team of mental health providers working in primary care clinics. At the medical school, he leads a behavioral health seminar for second-year medical students and is a small group leader for another course that introduces these students to advanced aspects of the doctor-patient relationship.

Dr. Tweedy has written extensively about the intersection of race and medicine, both in academic journals and in popular print publications including a recent op-ed in The New York Times. His 2015 book, Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine, made the New York Times bestseller list and was selected by TIME Magazine as a top non-fiction book that year.

Read Mili Dave’s reflection on Dr. Tweedy’s HHGR talk on the HHIVE Lab Blog.


Tania M. Jenkins, PhD (UNC Department of Sociology)

A white woman with chin-length brown hair wearing glasses and a black shritsmiles at the camera. There is a blurred tree in the background.

“Doctors’ Orders: How Status Hierarchies in Medicine Shape Approaches to Patient Care”

October 21, 2020 @ 3:30pm

Every year, the US relies on osteopathic and international medical graduates (non-USMDs) to fill around one-third of post-graduate residency positions because there is a shortage of American graduates (USMDs). Non-USMDs, however, are often informally excluded from top residency positions and disproportionately tend to train in lower-resource environments, while USMDs tend to fill the most prestigious and well-resourced residencies. Nationwide, this has resulted in highly segregated programs, with more than half of all community internal medicine programs almost exclusively staffing non-USMDs, and over one-third of university programs almost exclusively staffing USMDs. How does the residency training of non-USMDs in community hospitals compare to USMDs’ in university hospitals? Drawing on 23 months of ethnographic fieldwork and 123 interviews, Jenkins compares training at two internal medicine programs: a community hospital staffing 90% non-USMDs and a university hospital staffing 99% USMDs. The community program’s structure lent itself to a hands-off approach resulting in “inconsistent autonomy.” In contrast, the university hospital supervised its residents much more regularly, resulting in “supported autonomy.” Jenkins concludes that medicine may be stratified in unexpected ways between USMDs and non-USMDs, and that stratification may matter for patients.

Tania M. Jenkins, PhD is an assistant professor of sociology at UNC-Chapel Hill. She is also a faculty research fellow at UNC’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research and the book review editor at Social Forces. Her research examines how and why status hierarchies are (re)produced in the medical profession and how they impact both doctors and patients. She recently published Doctors’ Orders: The Making of Status Hierarchies in an Elite Profession with Columbia University Press.


Anne Lyerly, MD, MA (UNC Department of Social Medicine, Associate Director of the Center for Bioethics)

“Pregnancy, the Pandemic, and Morality of Reproduction”

November 10, 2020 @ 12:00pm

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a range of tensions at the interface of public policies and the private lives of individuals, including in the context of pregnancy.  In this talk, Dr. Lyerly will highlight these tensions, foregrounding a resurgent debate about the extent to which individuals’ decisions about whether and under what circumstances to become a parent can be shaped by issues of broader public concern. Join us at 12pm on November 10 for an HHGR with Professor Anne Lyerly of UNC’s Department of Social Medicine.

Annie Lyerly, MD, MA is a Professor in the Department of Social Medicine and Associate Director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  An obstetrician-gynecologist and bioethicist, her research addresses morally complex issues around reproduction and women’s health.  She is a founder of the Second Wave Initiative, and effort to ensure that the health interests of pregnant women are fairly represented in the biomedical research agenda, and is Principal Investigator of the PHASES Project, an NIH-funded project to ethically advance research addressing HIV and co-infections in pregnancy.  She has published widely for both academic and popular audiences and is the author of A Good Birth: Finding the Positive and Profound in Your Childbirth Experience (Penguin/Random House).


Erica Fretwell, PhD (University at Albany, SUNY, Department of English)

“Towards a Craft Epistemology”

January 26, 2021 @ 3:30pm

This talk focuses on Helen Keller’s experiments in elaborating the multiple selves of tactile experience – the double consciousness that arrives immanently in what Merleau-Ponty would later call “double sensation” – and its implications for W.E.B. Du Bois’s formulation of African American “second sight.” The centrality of touch to the composition, thematic content, and conceptual contributions of Keller’s autobiographies provides the outlines of a new set of beliefs about and practices involving handicraft in the nineteenth century, at the intersection of aesthetics, empire, and epistemology.

Erica Fretwell, PhD is an Associate Professor of English at the University at Albany, SUNY. She is the author of Sensory Experiments: Psychophysics, Race, and the Aesthetics of Feeling (Duke UP, 2020), and recently coedited – as a member of the Triangle Collective – The Palgrave Handbook of Twentieth and Twenty-first Century Literature and Science (2020). Her essays have appeared in the journals American Literary History and J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, as well as in the volumes Timelines of American Literature (Johns Hopkins, 2019), The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Food (2020), and The New Walt Whitman Studies (Cambridge, 2020). Essays are forthcoming in The Cambridge Companion to American Literature and the Body and Keywords for Health Humanities (NYU). She is currently undertaking a short project on “sentimental anaesthetics” and a book-length project on the emergence of handicraft as an aesthetic valuation and epistemological project in the nineteenth century.


Ada Adimora, MD, MPH (UNC School of Medicine and UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health)

“All Policy is Health Policy: Pathways to HIVE (and COVID-19)”

March 4, 2021 @ 1:00pm

In “All Policy is Health Policy: Pathways to HIV (and COVID-19),” Dr. Adimora explores the relationships between racial inequalities and the distribution of HIVE and COVID-19. The lecture elucidates the sociopolitical drivers of disease among Black Americans.

Ada Adimora, MD, MPH is the Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the UNC School of Medicine and Professor of Epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Her research is focused on the epidemiology of STDs, especially HIV, in women and minority populations.

Read Mili Dave’s reflection on Dr. Admiora’s HHGR talk on the HHIVE Lab Blog.


Sayantani DasGupta (Columbia University, Program in Narrative Medicine), Zahra Khan (Columbia University, Program in Narrative Medicine), and Yoshiko Iwai (UNC School of Medicine)

Abolition Medicine: Reimagining the Role of Social Justice in Healthcare

March 30, 2021 @ 3:30pm

Dr. Sayantani DasGupta

In 1935, WEB Dubois wrote about abolition democracy: an idea based not only on breaking down unjust systems, but on building up new, antiracist social structures. Scholar activists like Angela Davis, Ruth Gilmore and Mariame Kaba have long contended that the abolition of slavery was but one first step in ongoing abolitionist practices dismantling racialized systems of policing, surveillance, and incarceration. The possibilities of prison and police abolition have recently come into the mainstream national consciousness during the 2020 resurgence of nationwide Black Lives Matters (BLM) protests. As we collectively imagine what nonpunitive and supportive community reinvestment in employment, education, childcare, mental health, and housing might look like, medicine must be a part of these conversations. Indeed, if racist violence is a public health emergency, and we are trying to bring forth a “public health approach to public safety” – what are medicine’s responsibilities to these social and institutional reinventions?

Yoshiko Iwai

Sayantani DasGupta, MD, MPH was originally trained in pediatrics and public health and is Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Narrative Medicine at Columbia University where she also teaches in the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race and Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. She is the co-author or editor of several academic texts including Principles and Practices of Narrative Medicine (Oxford 2016), and her academic work is at the interstices of speculative fiction, race, health, narrative, and social justice. She is also a New York Times bestselling children’s fantasy author, and you can follow her work on her website or on twitter @sayantani16.

Yoshiko Iwai, MS, MFA is a medical student at UNC School of Medicine and graduate of Columbia University’s programs in Narrative Medicine and Creative Nonfiction. She is published in places like The Lancet, Academic Medicine, Journal of Medical Humanities, Scientific American, among others. Her research focuses on medical education and oncologic care for individuals in the criminal justice system.

Zhara Khan

Zahra Khan, MS teaches in the Graduate Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, and serves as co-chair of the University Seminar on Narrative, Health, and Social Justice. Zahra’s writing, research, and community engagement emerges at the intersection of health humanities, social justice, and disruptive pedagogy. Her work has appeared in publications like The Lancet and Journal of Medical Ethics, and has been accepted to conferences in the UK, Norway, and, most recently, at Universite de la Sorbonne Nouvelle. She is co-editor of The Life Jacket, a zine about liberation, third world feminisms, and home.

Read Noah Ashenafi’s reflection on Dr. DasGupta, Ms. Khan, and Ms. Iwai’s HHGR talk on the HHIVE Lab Blog.


2019-2020 Speakers

2018-2019 Speakers

2017-2018 Speakers

2016-2017 Speakers