The Center for Bioethics welcomed another Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellow (IDF) this fall. Doctoral student Jacqueline James, MA, PhD candidate plans to use the fellowship to build the foundation of her PhD thesis on the implications of how we define and treat chronic illnesses in aging patients. She will focus specifically on post-polio syndrome, a disease that people with polio often develop later in life that is subject to misdiagnosis and a lack of comprehensive care.
Jackie is a Rhetoric and Scientific & Technical Communication doctoral student in the Writing Studies department at the University of Minnesota. With this lens, she is examining the power of scientific and medical communication to influence the diagnosis and treatment of patients with polio and post-polio syndrome. Because Minneapolis had a high concentration of polio cases during the epidemic in the 1940s and 50s, she is able to investigate local archives that hold large amounts of historical polio artifacts.
In addition to archival research, Jackie will investigate the long term consequences of the polio epidemic and how those consequences are still unfolding in the present day. She’s interested in the impact this unfolding has on elder care, health care access, and the ways we think about chronic illness. As a student of rhetoric, she asks things like: “How are the values about polio and mobility and about chronic illness enacted in a patient practitioner relationship?”, “Through what networks, relationships, communication systems, and institutions do patients access care?”, and “How do daily experiences define what patients’ disease is, both medically and socially?”
Jackie is particularly interested in finding meaningful ways of interfacing the ethics of rhetoric with bioethics, health, and medicine across disciplines. She first explored the potential connections and exciting overlaps between bioethics and her research on polio while taking our Interim Director Debra DeBruin’s course on Gender and the Politics of Health. It was in this class that she realized how bioethics’ focus on marginalized communities was directly related to her research on post-polio patients’ access to care. This class was also where she got excited about working with Dr. Debra DeBruin, PhD to support the interdisciplinary aspects of her research.
Jackie holds a BA in Creative Writing and Professional Writing with a specialization in Technical Writing from Carnegie Mellon. She received her MA in Rhetorical Studies from her current Writing Studies department at the U of MN.