© 2023 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

University of Iowa wins a national grant to teach the importance of health storytelling

The National Endowment for the Humanities granted $149,000 to a project based at the University of Iowa to develop a digital resource for teaching health narratives.
J. Kelly Brito
The National Endowment for the Humanities granted $149,000 to a project based at the University of Iowa to develop a digital resource for teaching health narratives.

University of Iowa’s Kristine Muñoz is the co-project director of a new initiative to help students learn about health narratives. It’ll be an online resource available both in Spanish and in English.

She and other co-project director Daena Goldsmith, of Lewis and Clark College in Oregon, won a National Endowment for the Humanities Grant to start the digital repository entitled "Salud, to Your Health! Resources for Teaching Health Narratives in English and Spanish."

"This grant is about taking the many benefits of storytelling about health and illness and wellness and grief and dying and all of the things that go into that. And teaching people to use storytelling to make sense of those universal parts of life," Muñoz explained. She is a professor of Spanish and Portuguese and communication studies at the University of Iowa.

The project was awarded $149,999 to support three years of the online reference library.

Co-project director Goldsmith said it has the ability to improve patient lives and improve health care provider morale—especially during a global pandemic.

"I hope this is a project that when people hear about it, they'll say, 'Oh, absolutely, it makes sense that humanists would be contributing their appreciation for stories and for close reading and listening of stories to the enterprise," Goldsmith said. "This is a really good demonstration of how the humanities are absolutely relevant and essential to the kinds of issues that we're all facing today."

Goldsmith is a professor of Rhetoric and Media Studies at Lewis and Clark College, and also the Associate Dean for Faculty Development. She and Muñoz met a little more than 30 years ago in graduate school. They've stayed in contact over the years and realized they were both teaching their students about the importance of storytelling in the health field. They found it helped facilitate conversations between and among patients and healthcare providers.

"One of my favorite lines in the grant proposal is that no one goes untouched by health and illness and grief and death. And yet, those are topics that we often don't feel as free to talk about as we ought to be," Goldsmith said.

The two also said this online resource could provide a way for healthcare providers to better address workplace burnout, something that has been especially prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think this will benefit the people of Iowa because it will get Spanish majors out into the local community. And it will connect University of Iowa students to Latino/Latina folks in the community in positive ways, and get them to see Spanish as something that they can learn a lot about people outside of that wonderfully exotic study abroad experience," Muñoz said. "They can hear about somebody's abuela in West Liberty, and say, 'Wow, who knew she was that interesting?' And that can be the transformative moment of their life."

The project directors said one of the biggest challenges they foresee is making sure people understand the extent to which the resource can be used in and outside of an academic environment.

The online resource will be available to anyone who wants to use it, not just those in academia.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines