Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Clinic Narrative | Positive Pairings, Doctorate Direction, or Beautifying Clinical Contexts

Hi Colleagues,

My friend and I joked the other day about the late night times when inspiration strikes and you must get up and write.  So here I am blogging, also prompted by my stinging back from my mole removal earlier at North Pacific Dermatology.  

Today's experience gave me a positive pairing and the nudge to begin producing Clinic Narratives, or intermedia produced on a blog framing my experiences in clinical contexts, which historically have been scary and/or frustrating elsewhere.  For that reason I put a special effort in approaching scary clinics with constructive curiosity and a faith-based desire to contribute to health, well-being, and human rights (learn more about my research foci). Here's a pixel-roll of today's visit: 

"My Mess," said my initial mischievous caption (above)

Notice the mosaic of intermittent place, self-portrait, and detail images.  This appointment zinged by as the clinician, a PA-C, asked me, "So what are you going to do at work after this is over?"  I fuddled out a reply about volunteer consulting as I tried to context-shift from her cutting off 3 moles, which took mere minutes total, by the way.  Then I gained momentum as I chatted her ear off about my quest for a doctorate where I can contribute communication and arts-based methods to health.  I answered her follow-up questions including, "What do you want to do when it's done?" with stating my desire to "make easier" communication among clinicians and constituents.  Yes, I used that word.  She didn't seem annoyed or standoffish by my ideas, either.  The experience was expeditious, quality, and dare I say fun?  Notice the place-based images show beauty, nature, and busy bees, or movement and action. The bees move for a purpose, not in every direction, but as a coordinated effort.  I even look strong in the flexing image.  


I often consider how to improve health, especially via communication.  My Master's thesis speaks of digital storytelling for health.  For me, health includes "metrics" such as joy, safety, all will be ok, calm, resilience, strength, connection, and contribution.  Does beauty that I create yield a sense of life?  Creating anything is almost as conceiving and birthing a baby.  Through production I raise the child and through distribution and platforms and venues, I share my creation with my "world."

Ultimately, my friend Shannon, producer of The Adventures of Lucky Duck, gave me wise advice that still rings true:  "Write yourself a new story... and then just go do it!"  Perhaps the power in storytelling, digital and otherwise, creates a new space, place, self, society even wherein writing a new story trumps Mattingly's (1998) observation that healthy narratives reconcile unmet expectations.  I met Unmet in the past.  Today is a new day.  "Tomorrow is another day," as my mom often says.  Perhaps storytelling empowers because it taps that redemptive core in us that redeems solely by creating, and by the creating, changes our situation, including our heart/mindset, for the better.


Before the appointment I felt overwhelmed as I mulled over every important thing going on in my life right now, including the appointment itself and doctorate inquiry.  As I drove I said at least twice to God, "I can't do it," it being everything on my mind at the time, and we talked about that.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me..." I recalled.  I left the appointment feeling energized, invigorated, almost renewed.  Sure it was just a few moles, a simple procedure (and I must go back for more).  

Today I gained a positive pairing for the first time in a long, long time with clinician appointments.  It used to be that I felt dismissed and even judged by clinicians who had yet to transition from managing infectious diseases to acknowledging chronic illness instead of stigmatizing it.  Perhaps some still do, but I move forward from a different place.  I need no longer defend myself or my methods because today somehow validated and congealed how I want to approach my health and doctorate inquiry.  I appreciate how God answered prayer as I feel that I experienced the best clinician appointments in a long time.

Moving Forward

Moreover, I've a new sense of direction on where to go with my studies.  I've been drafting research proposals and all the while worrying about scale in what is culturally and normatively cast as a subjective affair.  However, where would clinicians and clinics be without the subjective experience of our embodied selves needing repair?  Is the experience all that subjective, anyway, considering our shared mortality and need?  So I'm challenged to be not ashamed, but seek a way to apply my creative work to a field traditionally left to positivist paradigms and medical and natural science.  What's encouraging is that I've discovered quality doctorate programs and research centres with affiliations with industry and government that encourage learners to apply creative methods to health communication and fund, though competitively, learners to do so.  Such design is what I mean by designing programs as partnerships and for praxis or practice-led learning.

Overlapping Themes

By the way, a PhD is a philosophy degree, meaning that we give away our way of knowing as research or techne.  Techne may have been our epistemology, but regardless method, I advocate a gifts-based approach that focuses one's teaching and skills for a social and even saving benefit.  Learn more about my ideas for education design, which relate to health reform via themes for sustainability, paradigm shifts, interdisciplinarity/partnerships, etc.


I shared the images on my profile via my smartphone, then edited and uploaded them as an album titled Clinic Narratives later that afternoon, and then it clicked (see Moving Forward below).  My friend teased me by commenting, "Beep beep beep, OUGHA!" I surmise that she meant I looked pretty enough for a passerby to honk and take notice.

Imagine that?  From having just shed a paper shirt in a clinic to being indirectly told I'm pretty and that I have muscles.  I flexed in the photo for sure.  "I'm working on my abs," I told the PA-C.  Another friend photographs athletes who happen to also be fighting cancer.  Whether with a camera or otherwise, write a story of strength next time you go to a clinic.  Tuck away these notions of aesthetic and place and save them for a rainy day.  There are happy and worthwhile implications for applying and sharing digital arts to alleviate people's clinic experiences, no matter how seemingly superficial or serious.  Remember the sharing component and ask, "What comprises health?"  

Faith[fully] Speaking

All the while I reflect on this ethos to whatever "my little heart" desires to contribute or change:

All things are permissible,
but only some things benefit...

Therein scales our reach, or the imperative says whatever you do, in the very least, find not the golden lining, but the benefit.  For me, I find confidence in "doing unto the Lord with all my heart" (Col. 3:23).  Even when I go to clinics.  If the Lord is a saving kind, then even "dr's" appointments can be purposed, or so I hope! :D  My pictures and blog posts may not be that injection to save lives, but they [en]courage mine, and I hope, yours. For me, as of today, that approach has become a little bit more clear and I am encouraged.

Finally, Questions...

Perhaps you think I'm making too much of this health stuff, and it was, after all, "just" a dermatology appointment and a few moles.  Why need the encouragement?  Did I mention that skin cancer runs in my family and I thought the spot on my face concerning?  Sometimes clinical spaces make me [us?] fear.  What do "we" fear?  Do they remind us of mortality, death, do we fear judgment or stigmas, or do we fear pain, or all or none of the above, and then some?  Whatever the cause of fear, it impedes health.  Whether perception or tangible, fear makes us do funny things and be strange, and even mean if not misguided, creatures.  Perhaps the questions come last because it's better as my friend said to focus on writing your new story.  So what's your story whenever and wherever you feel afraid?

You are my hiding place; 
You preserve me from trouble; 
You surround me with songs of deliverance. 


Thank you for reading,


New York: Cambridge.