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Using the arts to explore how we interact with medicine and health

SCOPE is an online resource geared towards students at U of T Scarborough and Canada more broadly to increase awareness and share research about the emerging field of Health Humanities.

Why does vaccine hesitancy still exist? Master’s of Arts candidate Robert Laurella believes the answers may lie in novels, poems and literature.

“Victorian literature can tell us how people interacted with medical sciences and that can teach us about how people interact with medicine today,” says Laurella.

Laurella’s research uses arts and humanities to provide a different perspective to matters of health and illness.

“Health Humanities is a discipline that turns to the methods and the materials of arts and the humanities including films, music, literature, philosophy, and history to approach health and illness” says Andrea Charise, assistant professor of health studies at U of T Scarborough and founding director of SCOPE: The Health Humanities Learning Lab

SCOPE is an online resource geared towards students at UTSC and Canada more broadly to increase awareness and share research about the emerging field of Health Humanities.

“We needed an accessible, online home base that also works an information source for our students to communicate that Health Humanities exists at UTSC, and it is a very new way of studying health and illness,” says Charise.

Charise worked with PhD candidate Nehal El-Hadi to develop a virtual Health Humanities lab that satisfied the needs of students and researchers.

“The word ‘scope’ was chosen for the learning lab because it contains so many different layers and meanings. Microscopes and telescopes magnify objects—or parts of the body--letting us see things differently. Scope also means to investigate, and Health Humanities broadens the conventional scope of the arts and of health,” says El-Hadi, explaining how she came up with the name.

Since one of the goals of Health Humanities is to look at health through the lens of art, Charise designed the original website artwork with April Brust, a recent graduate of the Biomedical Communications Master’s degree program at the University of Toronto. 

“We wanted the website to be welcoming, informative, visually attractive, and spark people’s imagination of health, illness and disability,” says Charise.

With the launch of this online hub, Charise wants to provide a thriving resource for a new generation of students and researchers and eventually hopes the virtual lab will translate to a physical lab one day.  For now, SCOPE highlights the innovative research and learning initiatives being done by Charise’s interdisciplinary team of researchers, as well as Health Humanities courses available to UTSC undergraduates.

“SCOPE and Health Humanities really illustrate that studying the arts doesn’t have to mean, ‘would you like fries with that?’” says Laurella. “The arts and humanities can be useful, engaging, and practical in a way you would find any other degree.”

You can follow SCOPE: The Health Humanities Learning Lab on Twitter.  

 




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