Humanities in Health conference hopes to bring disciplines together


The aim of an upcoming conference is to “provide a meeting ground for practitioners of both health care and the humanities, disciplines so often siloed in academia and in broader society,” according to Abdesalam Soudi, a Pitt professor of sociolinguistics and organizer of the Cross-disciplinary Conference on Engaging Humanities in Health on April 9 and 10.

The conference grew out of a collaboration Soudi had with Jeannette South-Paul, former chair of family medicine at Pitt who retired last year. The master’s level course on cultural competence in medical education, taught to residents and fellows through the Institute for Clinical Research in Education, focused on discrimination in health care and social determinants of health, such as the environment where we live and work.

Another aspect that brought Soudi to organize this conference is his research on the impact of technology on doctor-patient conversations.

“By drawing linkages, we hope to suggest overlooked opportunities for connection while also providing the chance for scholars, faculty and students in all disciplines to meet, laying the foundation for future collaboration and cross-disciplinary training and research around the humanities and health,” Soudi said.

The conference will offer workshops, panel discussions, and keynote speeches on a wide array of topics. While many will be presented by Pitt faculty and students, there are presenters from around the world. For instance, researchers from the University of London, who Soudi connected with through LinkedIn, will present “Cultural translation and interpreting of COVID-19 risks among London’s ethnic and minority communities.”

In total, there are 125 authors involved in the conference, and they hope to attract 500 participants.

The keynote address will be given by David J. Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges and previously the 13th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.  While at the Smithsonian, Skorton helped produce a report, based on 200 university programs, about the integration of the humanities with arts, medicine and engineering.

South-Paul will give a talk on “Cultural Humility in Medicine.” Theresa Brown, author of the New York Times bestseller “The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients’ Lives. The Shift,” will discuss “The Power of Listening to Patients.” There also will be a panel of undergraduate students presenting their research.

Soudi said the conference will “help cultivate an interdisciplinary Community of Practice, which will work to provide support and structure for collaborative studies focusing on centralizing humanities and cross-disciplinary training to improve the human condition, combat racism in healthcare and raise awareness about the impacts of racism on health.”

The conference is a Year of Engagement event and is co-sponsored by the UPMC Health Plan. Find the full agenda and registration information here.

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 724-244-4042.


Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.

Follow the University Times on Twitter and Facebook.