Public Health Humanities: Audience, Engagement, and Social Justice

deadline for submissions: 
March 16, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Hiram College Center for Literature and Medicine
contact email: 

2018 Center for Literature and Medicine Summer Seminar at Hiram College
Public Health Humanities: Audience, Engagement, and Social Justice

June 6-9, 2018

Application Deadline: March 16, 2018

To apply, please visit:


The 2018 summer seminar investigates future directions for the health humanities as a field by attending to the diverse “publics” it serves. Drawing our attention to opportunities for public engagement beyond academic and clinical contexts, it offers the opportunity to think about 1). public scholarship, and the ways in which our research and teaching can transcend institutional spaces to engage with broader audiences, 2). public health, and the role of the health humanities in intervening in crises such as environmental disasters, and 3). public policy, and how we “do” health humanities when both health care and the humanities are under threat from our administration.  Through these, or any of the other possible lenses that “public health humanities” offers as a focus, we are especially interested in issues of social justice, as we interrogate the ethical responsibilities of our field to its “publics” at this historical juncture. The seminar will offer all participants the opportunity to share their own work and expertise through sessions of 5-minute lightning talks and a poster session, which will be an optional part of the seminar application.


The seminar will open with an evening reception and Forum Theatre performance on Wednesday, June 6th and run for three full days (June 7th-9th) on the scenic campus of Hiram College, located in Northeast Ohio’s historic Western Reserve region, approximately 45 minutes east of Cleveland. The unique rural setting offers an intimate, collaborative, retreat-like atmosphere in which to engage with and learn from colleagues. In addition to the seminar sessions, participants will enjoy evening social events, an open mic night, opportunities to hike the trails at Hiram’s Field Station, and more.

Seminar Faculty Leaders

Therese Jones, Ph.D., Associate Director, Center for Bioethics and Humanities; Director, Arts and Humanities in Healthcare Program, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus; Editor, Journal of Medical Humanities

Craig Klugman, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Health Sciences; Co-Director, Minor in Bioethics & Society, DePaul University

Arno Kumagai, M.D., Professor and Vice Chair for Education, Department of Medicine; F.M. Hill Chair in Humanism Education, University of Toronto

Kirsten Ostherr, Ph.D., M.P.H., Professor of English; Director, Medical Humanities Program; Director and Co-Founder, Medical Futures Lab, Rice University

Lise Saffran, M.P.H., M.F.A., Director, Master of Public Health Program, University of Missouri

Joseph Zarconi, M.D., Professor and Chair, Department of Internal Medicine; Clinical Director for Health Humanities Education, Northeast Ohio Medical University College of Medicine; Interim Associate Dean for Health Affairs, Northeast Ohio Medical University


Pre-Seminar Workshop
Forum Theatre for Health Care Equity
June 5-6, 2018

Workshop Leader: Katherine Burke, MFA, Medical Humanities Consultant, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine


This optional workshop (for which participants may register separately or in conjunction with the seminar) will train participants in the techniques of Theatre of the Oppressed while focusing on the topics of health care equity and health disparities. Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), developed by Brazilian theatre artist and political activist Augusto Boal in the late 20th century, is used around the world by oppressed and marginalized peoples as a brainstorming tool, with the goal of overturning oppressive systems (such as racism, income disparity, sexism, poverty, etc.). In the most well-known type of TO, Forum Theatre, a community creates and performs a short play about a real problem. After the performance, the audience (whom we call spect-actors) discusses the issue briefly. Then the scene is played again. This time, any spect-actor can stop the action and intervene, replacing the protagonist, to try to change the outcome of the scene for the better. Using theatre in this way allows us to rehearse for real life.

The workshop will run the afternoon and evening of Tuesday, June 5th and the full day of Wednesday, June 6th, concluding in a Forum Theatre performance on the evening of the 6th to coincide with the opening of the summer seminar. Space in this workshop will be limited to 30 participants. We hope to have a diverse group of participants consisting of activists, community organizers, health care professionals, and people directly affected by the issues we will be exploring.