Medical Humanities Practica Students Take RURS Top Prizes

At the 2018 Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium (RURS), Miriam Shayeb and Sarah Lasater took home the top awards in undergraduate humanities research. Miriam and Sarah's presentations were condensed versions of the work they presented as part of their final projects in the HRC's practica courses, as part of its medical humanities programming.

Miriam, who became President of the Rice Medical Humanities Club in Fall 2018, conducted her first research practicum as a freshman in the HRC's inaugural semester of the program (Spring 2016), under a public humanities grant funded by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation. Her work that semester the letters of Kezia Payne DePelchin, held in the Rice Fondren Library's Woodson Research Center, produced two excellent treatments of the complex interactions of disease, shifting race relations, and the professionalization of nursing in the postbellum South: Unsung Requiem: African-Americans in the Mississippi Valley Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878-1879 and A Mission of Mercy: Nursing in the Mississippi Valley Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1878-1879. In the Summer of 2017, she returned to her interest in the historical and regional analysis of public health, as the HRC's first medical humanities Summer practicum student. Miriam worked, in this practicum, with resources at the Texas Medical Center's McGovern Historical Collections relating to Dr. Joseph Jones, the postbellum president of the Louisiana State Board of health. Miriam's presentation of her final paper, "A Regional Affliction: a Portrait of Dr. Joseph Jones in the New South," won her the award for Excellence in Research in the Humanities at the 2018 RURS competition. Abstract:

Southern history has painted a critical portrait of Dr. Joseph Jones, president of the Louisiana State Board of Health from 1880-1884, whose controversial opinions on quarantine and the federal government served as the source of intense conflict between the national and state boards of health. Dr. Jones’s scholarship and advocacy for local and national public health improvements evolved during his career. His regional gaze, which heavily influenced and skewed his work toward improving the public health and public image of the South, gradually eroded as the necessity for effective national health regulation usurped regional authority in the New South. In the years after his term, Jones recognized the devastating effect of split authority on effective regulation and called for comprehensive national regulation of quarantine. Jones’s evolving perspective on federal authority and disease prevention mirrors the regional debate on federal health regulation amidst national conflict over local interests, regional emphasis, and the authority of a New South in the postbellum United States.

Sarah's work began in the Summer of 2017, in a Summer Medical Leadership internship fellowship she was awarded through the HRC, funded by a grant from the Doerr Institute. Working at Baylor College of Medicine, under the guidance of Jennifer Christner, the Dean of the School of Medicine, she helped a team of researchers prepare for a study of community needs, to inform potential changes to the medical curriculum. Sarah's final summer research paper explored the nature of medical leadership in a changing professional climate: Horizontal Leadership in the Evolving Physician Profession. Her work with Dean Christner's team continued into the 2017-18 Academic Year as a research practicum, during which time she helped the team to conduct field interviews on what community stakeholders believed doctors should learn in the course of their medical education. Her final presentation at RURS in May 2018 was titled, "An Inclusive Care Model: Education, Horizontal Leadership, and Holistic Care." Abstract:

The growing number and diversity of pressures placed on physicians are challenging their positions as, in the words of Paul Starr, the “sovereign” leaders of healthcare; the response to these pressures requires a reassessment of the profession and an evaluation of how the pre-corporatized physician-patient model fails in the current health care environment. An "inclusive model" that integrates key adjacent care players might better serve both physicians and patients. It might mitigate the time-restricting, autonomy-withdrawing effects of initial corporatization by bolstering holistic care and preserving physician autonomy through "horizontal leadership" of care teams—where physicians take a step back from the traditional perception of their profession as sovereignty and step forward in their allying with and understanding of different adjacent groups that affect a patient's care. These theories connect to my research project currently underway at Baylor College of Medicine, which capitalizes on horizontal leadership and holistic care, and envisions new feedback and clinical models by considering other perspectives in medical school curriculum development.