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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.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Our Responsibility

It's funny, really. The way we question ourselves. You'd think we'd be able to be self reflective without detracting from our confidence--to go through the process of understanding ourselves and our position in the world and how we impact others without compromising our ability to contribute to collective understanding. Our ability to reflect on who we are and how we are positioned in relation to others is essential to our ability to contribute to the creation of an inclusive world. We need to make room for ourselves to do this, and we need to make room for others to do this as well. There's no question that this type of self reflection is absolutely necessary to our development as individuals and as a society. We make choices every day that shape our collective fate--yet we rarely recognize the power of these choices. And when we do, we allow our choices and the way we discuss them to be guided by self interest rather than what's right. We've gotten very good at rationalizing decisions that can protect or advance our own position as the ones that are the most ethical ones--but let's be honest, how often is that the case? How often do our needs and wants really reflect what's best for all of us as a human race?

 Taking a look at the way our rhetoric and discussions mask self interested positions, actions and decisions as that which is best for the whole of humanity is really an interesting and productive exercise. For instance, how do we talk in ways that de-humanize those who might not benefit from the decisions that are being made? How do we talk in ways that shifts responsibility for those on the fringes from something of concern to all of us to their own individualized issue? How does our fascination with what is "fortunate" and what is "unfortunate" serve our self-interested tendencies? How does this label, and other labels we assign and accept without critical reflection, serve to protect and even enhance our positionality? At the expense of who? How does the way we talk about issues reduce our agency in situations that might require sacrifice and enhance our agency when the action we are talking about can lead to the advancement of us and those like us? How do we silence viewpoints that might challenge our own? How do we magnify viewpoints that support our own?

 So, how do we create this room for self reflection? First, we have to overcome the fear of what this kind of reflection could mean--a forfeiture of power. Second, we have to come to understand that the power we have that subordinates another human being is not the kind of power that will enable us to solve our collective problems--it will merely lead to the advancement of solutions that benefit one small, powerful segment of society. Third, we have to put our egos in check and be willing to accept the responsibility inherent in the power that our voices carry. This starts with a recognition of the power inherent in communication---and continues with a commitment to the creation of a truly just world in which we strive to overcome our own personal biases to better understand the world as it truly exists rather than limit our understanding to that which we see through our own eyes. It needs to continue with a recognition of the beauty of the world that is hidden from the person that strives to see it alone--and recognize that we must actively seek out and engage those who see the world differently to catch a glimpse of that beauty. This commitment to relinquishing the power and privilege inherent in our own position in the world in the hope of gaining something much more valuable--a wiser, more engaged view of the world in which we live-- is where all of this can begin.

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