Stories of Caring, Health, and Community

A Humanities Council Symposium

October 23, 2018


Parkway Ballroom, Plemmons Student Union


9:00   Welcome Remarks:  Dr. Neva Specht, Dean, College of Arts and Sciences

9:15   Elder Care Journey:  A View From the Front Lines

           Laura Katz Olson, AGF Distinguished Professor of Political Science, Lehigh University

10:30 Break (refreshments provided)

10:45 Title TBD

           Casey Cooper, CEO Cherokee Hospital

12:00 Lunch & Learn (lunch provided)

           Internal Medicine:  A Doctor’s Stories

           Terrence Holt, Associate Professor of Social Medicine, Assistant Professor of Geriatric

           Medicine, Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of North

           Carolina—Chapel Hill

2:00   Why Story-telling is the Heart of Great Healthcare

            Raymond Barfield, Professor of Pediatrics and Children’s Medicine, Duke Medical School

3:30   Appalachian State Faculty Panel

           Stories from the Caring Professions at Appalachian

4:45   Concluding Comments and Future Directions

           All Speakers and Participants


Co-sponsored by the Humanities Council, the Beaver College of Health Sciences, and the Honors College.


The caring professions have become more technical than caring. As technological advances turn our patients, clients, and students into data sets to analyze, diagnose, and assess, efficiency and outcomes improve. But what of the relationship between the caring professional and the patient, client, or student in her charge? Must technology interrupt the caring relationship? How can we who educate caring professionals help our students attend both to the technological and the human sides of our work? Is there a role of the humanities in preparing caring professionals who are…humane?

In October 2018, The Humanities Council of Appalachian State University will convene a symposium of thinkers on the edge of answering such questions. We will explore the role of narrative — story — in the caring relationship, and how it deepens our capacity to sustain the wellness of our patients, clients, and students. We will attend to stories, as Rita Charon (2006) says, “not to produce literary critics” of our students in the health sciences and education, 

but to equip them with the readerly skills to follow a narrative thread, to adopt multiple and contradictory points of view, to enter into the teller’s narrative world and see how that teller makes sense of it, to identify the images and metaphors used, to recognize the temporal flow of events, to follow allusions to other stories, to tolerate stories’ ambiguity, and to be imaginatively transported to wherever the story might take the one who surrenders to it. 

 Such learning will deepen our capacity to connect to our communities and the present needs of those we seek to serve.

Our four speakers will include:

Raymond Barfield on “Why Storytelling Is the Heart of Great Healthcare”

Raymond Barfield is Professor of Pediatrics and Christian Philosophy at Duke University. He is a pediatric oncologist with an interest in palliative care and medical humanities. He has published several books of philosophy and poetry, as well as a novel called The Book of Colors. He directs the Medical Humanities program in the Trent Center for Bioethics, Medical Humanities, and the History of Medicine at Duke.

Terrence Holt on “Internal Medicine:  A Doctor’s Stories”

Terrence Holt is Associate Professor of Social Medicine, Assistant Professor of Geriatric Medicine, and Assistant Professor of English & Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.  He received his PhD in 1985 from Cornell University and an MD in 2000 from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.   He writes:  “I work at the intersections between medicine and literature generally, with a particular emphasis on medical autobiography. My background in the humanities includes MFA (creative writing—fiction) and PhD degrees (nineteenth-century British literature) in English, both from Cornell. My published work over the past decade has been concerned primarily with the ways the conventions of narrative condition our perceptions. I am particularly interested in the ethical ambiguity of narrative itself, its capacity both to offer insight into our motives and to generate self-serving fictions. I am fascinated by the imagination, especially as it confronts our mortal condition.  Much of my recent work has been told from the point of view of a medical practitioner. These pieces consider how the encounter with a patient changes the doctor’s perceptions of himself as a caregiver, of his power to heal, of the limits of those powers, and how we negotiate those limits….Working at the University of North Carolina, with its historical commitment to providing care and education to all residents of our state regardless of their economic status, has been and continues to be an extraordinary privilege.  For his full bio, see: .

Laura Katz Olson on “Eldercare Journey:  a View from the Front Lines”

Laura Katz Olson is AGF Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. She has published widely in the field of aging, health care and women’s studies, her articles addressing social welfare policy, especially the problems of older women and elder care.

To date, she has published nine books, mostly focusing on care of the frail elderly. She has been a Scholar at the Social Security Administration, a Gerontological Fellow and a Fulbright Scholar. She also has lectured throughout Pennsylvania on Social Security, Medicare and Long-term Care policies. Olson has served on the American Political Science Council and is on the editorial board of the Journal of Aging Studies and the New Political Science Journal.

In 2009, she received the Charles A. McCoy Lifetime Achievement Award and, in 2012, Lehigh University’s Williamson Award in Social Research for her book The Politics of Medicaid.

Her most recent book, Elder Care Journey: a View from the Front Lines, relates her personal experiences as a caregiver for her mother. The book won Gold Medals in the 2017 Living Now Book award and in the 2017 Living Now Awards, both in the category of caregiving. It was also a finalist in the 2017 Sarton Women’s Book Award, in the category of Memoir.

Casey Cooper on  Topic TBD  

Casey Cooper is the Chief Executive Officer of Cherokee Indian Hospital (CIH) in Cherokee, NC.  The CIH serves approximately 14,000 members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).  Casey is also an enrolled member of the Eastern Band.

He received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Gardner-Webb University, a MBA at The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

He has been involved in American Indian health care for 24 years and has served the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians and its community since graduating from nursing school in 1993. He served as a Primary Care Nurse, Community Health Nurse, Nurse Educator, and Nursing Manager.  As the Health Director of the EBCI from 1999 to 2004, he helped shape public health policy with a focus on chronic disease prevention and led a community wide initiative to assume the management responsibilities of the CIH from the Indian Health Services through an Indian Self-Determination and Self-Governance Agreement.

He is a current member of the WNC Health Network, the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) Health Committee, USET CMS Tribal Technical Advisory Group, NC Medical Care Advisory Committee, NC American Indian Health Board, IHS Facilities Appropriation Advisory Board, AHA Regional Policy Board 3 and the WCU Board of Trustees.  Casey and his wife, Jill have one son, Jack and two daughters, Kate and Mary.

The Symposium will also include a faculty panel, chaired by LaShanda Sell, on “Stories from the Caring Professions at Appalachian”