[a] story-centered approach to examining health policy, however, is barely tolerated in mainstream policy circles. One recent example is a blog post on the Health Affairs website written by economists Katherine Baicker and Amy Finkelstein. Based on their own research into Medicaid expansion in Oregon, these authors argue that stories are little more than anecdotes that are incapable of providing the “evidence” necessary to develop and assess health policies. Instead they contend that more “rigorous” methods, and particularly randomized controlled trials (RTCs) are needed.
One of the books I love teaching above all else is Judith Walzer Leavitt’s fabulous Typhoid Mary: Captive to the Public’s Health. This is a spectacular book, and my students regularly confirm this perspective. It is one of those rare texts that manages to satisfy the scholarly standards expected by professional historians of medicine and public health at the same time that it is readable and accessible for non-expert audiences (undergraduates, public health students, etc.)
My pedagogical affect is generally quite genial and affable. I smile often in class, which is in part a function of the fact that I love teaching so much, and in part is because I try to practice compassion and accessibility with my students. I begin most of my courses by sharing a significant amount about myself and my background, in part to build rapport and to try and diminish the educational distance that often exists in the hierarchies between student and teacher.
But because health stigma is a frequent topic of discussion and analysis in all of my teaching, we often find ourselves broaching the subject of Mary Mallon.
From Joanna Bourke’s stunning new book on the history of pain (p. 269):
But the narrative medicine that is promoted by many concerned commentators in the medical humanities is also infused with a particular class-based ideology that assumes the speech and writing is redemptive. Like the ‘men of feeling’ of the eighteenth century, linking sympathy with narrative medicine was and is highly dependent upon the statements by articulate and often elite patients.
Valéria M. Souza, a fabulous scholar of disability and Portuguese literature, penned a typically fascinating post on her blog entitled “Complicating Disability Studies’ Relationship to medicine: It’s complicated.” There’s a lot there, and, as ever, I learn much from her posts. I usually agree almost completely with everything Valéria writes, but on this one, I have some points of disagreement. For purposes of disclosure, I generally self-identify as an able-bodied person, although I do have some invisible impairments for which I can quite easily pass (I find a basic distinction between impairment and disability useful, although I am not committed to any real metaphysical defense of the distinction).
In terms of the social/medical model of disability, I start – and I realize I am conversing with a literature scholar here! – with a question about the rhetorical purpose.