CHCI Institute: 'Health Beyond Borders'

From the 14-15thJune and 17-19thJune, Columbia Global Centers | Paris hosted the CHCI Health and Medical Humanities Institute’s 2019 conference, titled “Health Beyond Borders,” and the Alliance Summer School. During the conference and summer school, participants delivered papers on various topics regarding the medical humanities, as well as workshops and ateliers related to bodily and mental health. The CHCI Health and Medical Humanities Network Summer Institute was sponsored by CGC | Paris, The Society of Fellows and the Heyman Center for the Humanities.

July 12, 2019


The first day of the conference started with two panels titled ‘Borders to Health’ and ‘The Risks of the Beyond: Borders, Bodies, Biometrics’. The morning panels were followed by a keynote speech from by Ghada Hatem-Gantzer, the Head Physician of the Maison des femmes. Ghada Hatem-Gantzer detailed the history of the women’s home, located in Paris’ northern suburb of Saint-Denis. The home not only provides birth control, abortions, and family planning to the women who visit, but also creative and dance workshops to women who have been subject to rape and sexual assault.

After the final three panels of the day, titled ‘Mental Health, Bias, and Accessibility’, chaired by the Executive Director of the Heyman Center Eileen Gillooly; ‘Circumventing Borders to Health: Histories of Disabled Children;’ and ‘Borders in Care.’ Highlights from the afternoon’s three panels included Walton O. Schalick’s paper on disabled children and nature therapy in Europe and the US from 1850-1950, as well as Stine Hauberg Nielsen’s paper that explored how borders in medicine inform bodily sensations experienced by women with presumed HPV vaccine side effects.

People talking in the Grande Salle

The second day of the conference centred around the theme ‘Artistic Crossings.’ The morning started off with three panels titled ‘The Medical in Literature and Folklore’, chaired by Rishi Goyal (director of Medicine, Literature, and Society at Columbia University); ‘Crossings in Critical French Medical Humanities’ (chaired by Thomas Dodman, Assistant Professor of French at Columbia University); and ‘Narrative Medicine and Reading Practice’ (chaired by Dr. Loren Wolfe, the CHCI Institute co-organiser and Columbia Gloval Center | Paris’ Senior Program Manager). These panels were followed by the conference’s third keynote speaker, Jens Brockmeier. Brockmeier discussed stories in illness, borders, and life. 

For the afternoon, the final panels, chaired by CHCI Institute co-organiser Arden Hegele, a Fellow at the Society of Fellows in the Humanities; Helen Ouyang, Assistant Professor at Columbia University Medical Center; and Liz Bowen, a PhD candidate in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. The conference ended with a keynote talk by Craig Spencer, director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center. In his keynote speech, Spencer recounted his work helping refugees on boats in the Mediterranean, recounting both the safety and legal issues migrants face. 

People talk in the Grande Salle

The Alliance Summer School was held at Columbia Global Centers | Paris from 17th-19thJuly 2019. Over the course of three days, participants listened to papers from various universities from the US, Canada, the UK, and France in separate, themed workshops. The summer school participants also took part in an artist’s book atelier, lead by Dr. Stella Bolaki of the School of English at the University of Kent and Darian Goldin Stahl, Concordia University, Canada. During the workshop, Bolaki and Goldin Stahl showed the class how to craft their own artist’s book related to a medical experience they have had. The class resulted in around twenty individual artist’s books being made, each one telling its own story. 

On the second day of the summer school after morning workshops, Dr. Loren Wolfe took the summer school to the Maison des femmes following the paper by the director of the women’s home, Ghada Hatem-Gantzer. The women’s home’s Project Manager Jessica Spraos gave a talk outlining the important work the hospital does and its history. Spraos then gave a tour of the Maison des femmes, starting with the bright, colourful exterior of the women’s home, a choice made to make sure the patients feel welcome when coming in.

Summer school outside women's home

The final afternoon of the summer school and the CHCI Summer Institute 2019 ended with a dance class, followed by a half hour of meditation. Bolewa Sabourin, a dancer, choreographer, and co-founder of LOBA, uses dance as a tool for social activism and psychological reconstruction for victims of sexual violence in France and in the democratic Republic of Congo. Bolewa gave a ‘basics’ dance class on traditional Congolese dancing. Participants danced with Bolewa, and, once they had gotten into the flow, even started improvising.

Following Bolewa’s dance class, Dr. Loren Wolfe a Narrative Medicine seminar in which the class was encouraged to practise free writing and closely analyse pieces of text, followed by a written creative response to this text. Participants were happy to share their creative, inspired stories with each other. Finally, to end the CHCI Institute 2019, participants were treated to half an hour of meditation. The time to reconnect the mind with the body was appreciated, with the class able to have a moment to reflect on what was learned during the five days of the institute and their time together. 

Group photo