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April 14, 1998

Healing and the Word Symposium to Be Held in April

"If we have our own why of life, we shall get along with almost any how."

-- Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzche

The Alabama Humanities Foundation (AHF), a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities, has granted two professors, Dr. Edmund Tsang of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and publisher of The Harbinger; and Dr. Sue Walker of the Department of English and Editor of the journal Negative Capability, the funding to sponsor an educational symposium exploring the connection between healing and the written/ spoken word. The program will address the idea that the spoken/written word has the power to heal.

"A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses." The words of Hippocrates, physician of ancient Greece, has meaning in our hectic world of today, for he addresses the link between attitude and what we say and think and feel and what being and feeling well can teach us about our lives, both spiritually and physically. Our physical bodies are a slate upon which our state of health is written. A scar is a transcription of trauma marked on the skin. Our bodies tell us truths if we learn to read the messages. Words address our state of being and enter into our conversations, and we hear such comments as: "I couldn't stomach it"; "My head is killing me"; "It makes me want to throw up": "[S]he makes me sick"; "It's sickening"; "[S]he was heart-broken"; "Oh, don't belly-ache about it" and other utterances of this kind. Words can also reach toward wholeness and bring strength. We can focus on being well, and by taking better care of our selves, we take care of not just [dis]ease but of our whole being.

"Medicine is the most humane of sciences, the most empiric of arts, and the most scientific of humanities" --Humanism and the Physician, E.E. Pellegrino

APRIL 23, 1998 7:00 P.M.

On Thursday, April 23 at 7:00 p.m. in the Medical Science Building Auditorium on the University of South Alabama campus, Charles Rodning, Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Surgery, USA College of Medicine will discuss the important covenant between patient and physician and the role of communication in transforming a physician into a healer to address the well-being of patients and their families and friends who are experiencing pain and suffering. Dr. Rodning has long recognized the communion that exists between doctor and patient. In an article entitled "The Humanities in Medicine," he notes that "a physician must recognize and attend to the patient as a unique individual." He says that "physicians can create a milieu for healing to occur" and points out the importance of the link between the sciences and the humanities. Before anyone entrusts their well-being to a physician, to the technologies available in medical science today, it is prudent to understand how [s]he is a participant in the healing process. "The individual patient should be able to expect a doctor trained as an attentive listener, a careful observer, a sensitive communicator, and an effective clinician," Dr. Rodning says. He will elaborate on the humanities role in medicine and on the doctor's position as healer in his address at 7:00 p.m. on April 23.

"Health is not just an absence of illness, it is a way of living"

-- Bill Moyers

APRIL 24, 1998 7:00 P.M. Medical Science Building Auditorium, USA Campus.

Musa Mayer of New York City and author of two books on breast cancer will discuss living well with cancer. Breast cancer now strikes one woman in eight, and it effects not only the woman involved but her husband, her family, and her friends. As a writer and a survivor herself, Ms. Mayer has traveled the country giving talks and workshops on the transformative and healing power of telling life stories. Before completing her MFA in the Writing Division at Columbia University, Musa Mayer worked as a counselor in the Ohio Community Mental Health system with a focus on groups and women's issues. She is the author of Examining Myself: One Woman's Story of Breast Cancer Treatment and Recovery (Faber & Faber, 1993), an account of her own journey with breast cancer that led her to participate in the Breast Cancer List on the Internet where she developed the idea for Holding Tight, Letting Go, a second book about cancer. She will talk about the interviews she conducted for this book and show videos of the women who have empowered the word by telling their own personal stories of coping with cancer.

April 25, 1998 Room 144, Humanities Building, USA Campus

There will be an opportunity to participate in a writing workshop for people with life- threatening illness, their family members and care-givers, and health professionals at 2:00 P.M. in Room 144 of the Humanities Building on the USA Campus. Many who have attended Musa Mayers workshops have said that they are a transformative experience. People are coming from Atlanta, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana to join in "Writing Our Way Home: The Power of Illness Narrative." Participants will learn to integrate the written word into their lived experience of coping with disease.

April 30, 1997 7:00 P.M. Medical Science Building Auditorium, USA Campus.

The final program of the Symposium will take place at 7:00 P.M. in the Medical Science Building Auditorium on the USA Campus. Dr. Sue Walker, Interim Chair and Professor in the Department of English will discuss the relationship between healing and words as well as read her poetry and fiction that directly reflects the lived experience of health and healing. Recipient of the 1994 William Crawford Gorgas Award given by the Alabama Medical Association for work by a lay person in the field of medicine, Walker has, for the past several years, been actively involved in the field of medical humanities. She will address the healing body as it transcends disease.

The Harbinger and Negative Capability are the joint sponsors of the Symposium on "Healing And the Spoken / Written Word." The programs are free to the public.

The Harbinger, Mobile, AL