'Healthcaring': Learning to Resist the Logic of Letting Go through Arts-Based Curriculum in a Student-Run Free Clinic
Waters, Rebecca Amerisa
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Contemporary healthcare education does not adequately prepare students for some of the most persistent moral challenges of medical practice in the United States. Healthcare in the US includes practices and policies of exclusion limiting who has access to life- extending and life-saving treatments. This dissertation addresses 1) examples of the structural harms and inequities that pervade the US medical system, 2) their effects on healthcare learners, 3) the free clinic, both historic and contemporary, as a space of resistance, and 4) the need for educational interventions to increase understanding, shape attitudes, and challenge existing biases of those harms in healthcare practice. I theorize the ways in which it has become logical in healthcare practice to “let go” of some individuals who struggle to access care. Looking at the free-clinic movement as a space that has historically rejected this letting go, I argue that arts-based curricula should be an integral part of developing understanding and critical thinking around the systemic failings of the US healthcare system. I show how arts activism frameworks can help learners understand and respond to the structural harms of medical practice. Focusing on the space of the free clinic as a microcosm of the disparities present in the broader US healthcare system, design an arts-based curriculum that cultivates critical consciousness amongst learners and enables recognition of institutional injustices in healthcare. An arts-based curriculum grounded in arts activism framings can nurture creative inquiry and critical thinking in our future healers and empower them to combat healthcare inequities and injustice through everyday action. In this pedagogical frame, healers learn that change happens through a never-ending process of individuals recognizing a need and taking action.