Dr Orkideh Behrouzan reports on “Pedagogical Encounters: Engaging Social Sciences & Global Health” A Joint Workshop between SSHM and UNC Department of Social Medicine

On April 9-10 2015, an SSHM delegation connected with the Department of Social Medicine at UNC Chapel Hill in the joint event, “Pedagogical Encounters: Engaging Social Sciences & Global Health”, with the goal of exchanging learning from each other’s experiences. Our aim was to consider collaborations around mutual research interests, to further faculty and student exchanges in the future, to discuss our shared pedagogical interests and concerns, and to explore potentials for joint teaching and research initiatives.

SSHM UNC CONFERENCEHoused in King’s College London and our strategic partner University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill, both our departments have global reputations for excellent interdisciplinary faculty examining health and health care in their social contexts—as well as global networks of clinical and research collaborators. These conversations are timely. UNC has been developing training sessions for undergraduates heading abroad (e.g. GO!, Global Orientation on Culture and Ethics, http://cgi.unc.edu/go/orientation) and improving curricula for medical trainees heading abroad (e.g. Office of International Activities, https://www.med.unc.edu/oia/unc-residents/global-health-modules-and-resources); while SSHM conducts BA/BSc programs in Global Health & Social Medicine, and a study-abroad in Social Medicine and Global Health that hosts several UNC students each year.

With 6 participants from SSHM (three faculty and three PhD candidate) and over the course of two days on the UNC campus, we had a fantastic opportunity to get to know our colleagues on both sides. On the first day, we were warmly received by the department of Social Medicine and spent the first half of the day learning about each others’ projects. We then focused on a thematic individual exchange between colleagues on both sides and along two areas of research: ageing (Laurie Corna and Tom Ricketts) and post-conflict wellbeing (Orkideh Behrouzan and Jeffery Sonis), followed by an interdepartmental dinner hosted by the department of Social Medicine. On the second day, we expanded the conversation: SSHM joined the working group “Moral Economies of Medicine,” hosted by the department of Anthropology, where a rich range of ethnographic research projects were presented by our respective PhD candidates and our colleague Scott Vrecko. In the afternoon SSHM joined a university-wide panel for critical discussion of how our respective institutions (undergraduate, graduate, and health professional students) currently prepare for service-learning or research-learning projects in health care and health sciences in international settings, particularly in the developing world. The panel participants combined social science and public health perspectives on global health: Peter Redfield (UNC Anthropology), Peggy Bentley (UNC Global Public Health), Shay Slifko (UNC Medicine International Activities), Jaclyn Gilstrap (UNC Global Initiatives), Bob Miles (UNC Global) and Orkideh Behrouzan (SSHM) explored options for collaborative efforts in improving such preparation and in helping students interrogate and contextualise objectivist and salvific presumptions about biomedicine, and develop fine-grained understandings of the historical and social contexts of health in areas of the globe to which they will travel.

As an inter-institutional, interdepartmental, and interdisciplinary joint initiative, this workshop follows a year-long conversation between the co-organisers towards a departmental partnership between SSHM and Social Medicine at UNC. Our vision is for this inter-departmental link to further both faculty and student exchange in the future. We discussed the next steps to be taken in the following academic year. In these discussions, we have put emphasis on pedagogy and encounters, as our shared priorities and concerns, to highlight mutual learning for social sciences and health and to acknowledge the blurred boundaries between them. On both sides, we believe that pedagogically, faculty ties between UNC Social Med & Kings SSHM can strengthen sociological, anthropological, and political dimensions of new interdisciplinary training programs at King’s and at SSHM. More specifically, graduate training linkages can provide students on both campuses access to transatlantic faculty expertise, with or without actual travel.

I am pleased to report that beyond the topical goals of the workshop, much was achieved and planned in this mutually enthusiastic and receptive conversation. I would like to thank the department of Social Medicine at UNC Chapel Hill, for hosting us with such generosity; and I particularly thank Professor Barry Saunders for his hospitality and his role in organising our visit, and for liaising and connecting us with colleagues across UNC who helped us advance the conversation in various directions. I also thank professor Bob Miles (UNC Global) for his ongoing support for this initiative. Funding this initiative was made possible by bodies on both sides; at KCL, I thank our office of Global Engagement at King’s Worldwide for making King’s Partnership Fund available to us. Similarly, we are grateful for the financial support from UNC’s department of Social Medicine, The Moral Economies of Medicine series at the department of Anthropology, as well as UNC Global.   I would also like to thank participants from both sides, particularly SSHM colleagues Laurie Corna, Scott Vrecko, Robert Flanagan, Sebastian Rojas Navarro, and Guntars Ermansons.

If you would like to join us in our future steps, please do not hesitate to contact us: Orkideh Behrouzan (KCL) & Barry Saunders (UNC)

Dr Orkideh Behrouzan  is the author of this blog post.

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