Presenting the Fall 2020 issue of JHR to readers, Editor-in-Chief Sarah Blanton looks deeply into the role of humanities in healing and inspiring a nation facing challenges both physical and societal. Remembering the last words of Representative John Lewis urging Americans to “stand up, speak up and speak out,” Blanton pledges the commitment of JHR to presenting narratives, both personal and collective, that encourage fundamental healing. She introduces with this issue a themed series dedicated to topics of social justice as well as the experiences of people caught in the COVID-19 pandemic. “We believe, in moments like these, that the next right step begins with seeing each other more clearly and using the humanities as a conduit for exploring the lived experience of others.”
This unique reflective narrative presents a harrowing account of a clinician’s experience trying to heal the wounds of demonstrators during the Twin Cities uprising this past spring. Michael Rosentreter and Jáime Gonzalez vividly describe Rosentreter’s time spent navigating flash grenades, tear gas, and other threats as he provides medical support to demonstrators. The experience helped him realize how valuable the role of a physical therapist in emergency settings truly is. Reflecting on the lessons learned during those nights, he realized, “However elevated the risk to me, nothing I experienced compares to the fear and danger people of color continually face.” He states his commitment to the role of advocacy in physical therapy to recognize and dismantle systemic, institutional, and individual racism.
In this stirring account, Oluremi Wanjiru Onifade and Sarah Caston present an honest and compelling look at the challenges within the physical therapy educational community for Black and brown people. Onifade paints a picture of her life growing up as a Kenyan/Nigerian queer-identifying Black American, and the obstacles she overcame on the path to her DPT. Her account ends where she challenges her colleague Caston: “There is a lack of representation of Black and brown people teaching in your PT program. Are you willing to do something?”
In response, Caston describes how that direct question changes her perception as an educator. She asks, “What does it look like for me, a white, heterosexual, cis-gender woman, to stand up to racism? And again, I ask, what does it look like for the profession of physical therapy to do the same?”
An homage to a devoted Charge Nurse, “A Letter to My Mother” lovingly shows what makes a true hero in today’s healthcare system. Ezeoyibo Justin Otiwu’s mother works nights with her COVID-19 patients without complaint and returns home to serve as a caregiver. This letter is a call-to-action for a new perspective on our essential workers, and poignantly drives us to reckon with the question of “how will we advocate for much-needed change to help the system’s valiant fighters?”
In alignment with our ongoing series dedicated to addressing social change, we offer a list of humanities-based resources for the Black Lives Matter movement and social justice. The materials accessed through the links offered here address art, beauty, dance, ethics, health issues, humanities education, movies, music, writings, and the Black experience in academia and the workplace. Readers are invited to access it frequently to educate themselves, self-reflect, and either begin or add to their journey toward being consistently anti-racist.
To help JHR readers—and clinicians dealing with the pandemic—find inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and even some entertainment during these days of crisis and necessary isolation, Jamie Fleshman, SPT has compiled an extensive list of thought-provoking resources. The materials accessed through the links offered here address ethics, disability, a wide range of the arts, education, and clinical information—all collated from a humanities perspective. Readers are invited to access it frequently for inspiration during the weeks ahead.
None of us could ever have imagined that we would be a part of one of the generations of history. But our challenge has arrived. In an inspirational message, JHR Editor-in-Chief Dr. Sarah Blanton examines what it means to navigate these uncertain times. She demonstrates how a humanities perspective can well be what saves us and makes us stronger. “I truly believe this cohort of clinicians, experiencing this pandemic, will emerge with exceptional levels of resiliency, compassion, cognitive flexibility, and critical thinking skills…,” she concludes. “Our world will be remarkable in ways we have yet to imagine.”
In this personal and insightful interview, Dr. Carol M. Davis relates her process of becoming a physical therapist, noting that the road to professionalism involves a willingness to “mature into oneself.” Describing her experiences working with students entering the field of physical therapy, she illustrates why studying the humanities helps students move beyond viewing their work as merely an occupation. Her reflections steer us towards a deeper understanding of what it means to be an extraordinary professional.
Babs McDonald describes her journey toward recovery from an ischemic stroke through painting and sketching. Through numerous examples of her artwork, she details her experiences pushing through impairment to create images chronicling her life. Based on her success, she advocates for the use of fine art techniques to foster upper limb movement in stroke survivors. Creating her art, she says, has taught her that “there are no failures in my recovery, only new challenges.”
As today’s healthcare professionals struggle to address the challenges of chronic-pain management, Debra Gorman-Badar argues that current multidisciplinary programs are missing a crucial component: an updated conception of patient autonomy. She details how expressive therapies help patients integrate their chronic-pain experiences into their lives and promote healing self-knowledge—as Frida Kahlo did through her remarkable paintings.