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I am a wife, mother, instructor and PhD student of Health and Interpersonal Communication. My research is located at the intersection of health, identity and discourse and is informed by my background in Organizational Communication with an overall objective of addressing inequities in healthcare access across populations by examining communicative processes that contribute to institutionalized inequities. My hope is to contribute to an understanding of the relationship between micro/macro level discourses within the healthcare system to improve patient access to quality care across populations. This will include research aimed at improving communication among medical providers, between medical providers and patients, between healthcare institutions, and between health institutions and individuals.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Explaining my Scholarship

It's funny--over the holidays we all have time to step back and reflect on our lives just a bit. Things slow down a little, we get time with family and friends--people who love us and who we don't get to see often in our day-to-day lives. It's so rejuvenating to be with our loved ones, and, it offers an important opportunity to reflect on our lives from a different vantage point. As I talk about my pursuit of my PhD with others who aren't involved in the day-to-day struggle to balance it with everything else, I have had to think through how to explain why this pursuit is so important to me. I can talk about it in academic terms--what I study, why I study it, and what I hope to achieve through studying it. What I haven't often been asked to do is explain this in everyday language. Until now.

I am working toward earning my PhD in communication because of the things that have consistently bothered me over the years. We live in and create a society filled with contradictions---contradictions that inhibit our ability to flourish and thrive as individuals and as a community. Below I offer a few examples of some of those that are top of mind as I write this post:

BEAUTY
Our society presents this unachievable ideal of beauty as something for us to aspire to as individuals:


 When this is the kind of beauty that makes a difference in our world:

SUCCESS
In our world  success looks like this...and the success of a person's life is often measured in these terms:

 But, those that are truly successful focus on a balanced development of these--and success should be measured in these terms:
LOVE
As a society, we reduce our representation of love to sexual connection between beautiful men and women

 Completely de-valuing the deeper, more meaningful love that we have for one another in our family, friend, and romantic partner relationships

SELECTIVE SOCIAL BLINDNESS
We have food eating contests, television shows focused on how much one person can eat...
 while people are starving in our own local communities and around the world
 Millions of Americans quietly living in poverty
 Unseen and unheard by decision-makers and those in power

INDIVIDUALITY
We focus on and celebrate individual success



and demonize individual failure without recognizing our inherent connectedness and the systemic nature of that connection. Individuals who succeed are said to do so on their own, by virtue of their hard work and determination, while those that fail are said to have some sort of character flaw. This is handy, because, as a society, we can blame that individual for his or her failures, and wash our hands of our collective responsibility for the systemic nature of that failure.
 We need to critically consider these contradictions and what they mean to us, our lives, our relationships, our worldview. We need to understand how these contradictions ensnare our thinking and limit our ability to relate to one another and shape our world. These are but a few of the concerning contradictions that drive my passion for what I do--there are so many more--too many to delve into here. My hope is that these examples offer some insight into the passion that drives me to pursue my scholarship. Ultimately, what this comes down to for me is the importance of the effect we have on one another, on ourselves and on our society with our communication. We also need to consider the effect our social structures that we create in our communication have on us as individuals, couples, families, and communities. It is through our communication that we connect (or don't) with one another--and through the quality of that communication that we define our relationships with/to one another. Our communication facilitates the connection and defines the relationships that shape our world for ourselves and for others. We have the agency and responsibility to be mindful of the power of our communication and to recognize that some have more social power than others in the shaping of our world through their communication. Right now, we are failing miserably in the task of taking responsibility for our communication--and I want to change that through my scholarship. I embark on this scholarly journey for all the reasons listed above and so many more...ultimately, we need to understand, accept and become mindfully responsible for the connections between us.


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