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by Abby Arcuri

The 10th Biennial Conference of the Society for Humanities, Social Science and Medicine was recently held on UNC’s campus. This conference celebrates the impact of social sciences and humanities on the practice of medicine and broader public health.

Emma Tayloe, a CHER-affiliated medical student who presented at the conference shared information on research she presented. Cambray Smith, a former CHER trainee and M.D.-Ph.D. student in Health Policy and Management who was a co-organizer of the conference shared more details on the meeting’s purpose

At the conference

On April 13th and 14th, UNC hosted the 10th Biennial Conference of the Society for Humanities, Social Science and Medicine (SSHSM) in UNC’s new Roper Hall. Several CHER-mentored UNC medical students presented their research at the conference.

Emma Tayloe and Vivi Santana-Bueno are two of the medical students who presented. Another student who contributed, but didn’t present was Meera Nagaraj.

As the medical students worked on their research, they received support from CHER and some of its employees. Two people who heavily supported the project were Gaurav Dave and Shelly Maras.

Tayloe and Santana-Bueno’s research captured the experiences of English or Spanish-speaking patients across North Carolina applying for financial assistance at hospitals.

Their presentation showed the challenges they found for rural Spanish-speaking patients who applied. Many patients found it difficult to understand the application or found the process invasive.

Tayloe said she hoped their presentation challenged “attendees to think more about how they can advocate improvements to the accessibility of hospital financial assistance programs.”

In the past, Tayloe has worked with Cambray Smith through the UNC Physicians for Human Rights chapter, which organizes medical-legal clinics for people with refugee status to document medical exemptions for the US citizenship test. Smith took on a large planning role for the conference and spoke about the gathering as a whole.

Smith explained the conference’s main goal was to “celebrate contributions of social science, humanities and public health in medicine.”

The conference was started by M.D.-Ph.D. students in anthropology in 2005. It has served as a source of community for M.D.-Ph.D. students and other trainees in non-traditional disciplines since then. These students are often “misfits” in traditional M.D.-Ph.D. programs—a major theme of the conference–and this gathering provides an opportunity to share experiences and learn from one another.

Two of the speakers were medical historians. Mara Buchbinder, Ph.D., of the UNC Department of Social Medicine, was a keynote speaker who shared her research on the challenges of clinical care under reproductive health restrictions.

Additional UNC Social Medicine speakers included:

  • Barry Saunders, M.D., Ph.D.
  • Sue Estroff, Ph.D.
  • Jon Oberlander, Ph.D.
  • Raul Necochea, Ph.D.
  • Doug MacKay, Ph.D.

Seth Berkowitz, M.D., MPH and Arrianna Planey, Ph.D., M.A. were other participating faculty.

This conference is largely student-run and was a major undertaking during a busy year. This year, the conference was co-run by UNC and Johns Hopkins students. Students and faculty traveled from 36 universities, including several attendees from the University of Oslo in Norway.

Smith thanks all of the sponsors, volunteers and the supportive M.D.-Ph.D. leadership at UNC for making this a great conference! She also thanks the other co-organizers, especially Caleb Easterly, another M.D.-Ph.D. student in Health Policy and Management.