Putting the Humanities to Work for Canadians' Health

January 18, 2024

Description | Meet the panelists | Watch the webinar | Transcript


COVID-19 has been a stark reminder that understanding a novel pathogen is essential but insufficient to protect us from disease. Biomedical and technical solutions are necessary, but they do not prevent or resolve misinformation, vaccine hesitancy, institutional amnesia (such as the forgetting of the SARS Commission report), or resistance to public health measures, nor are they sufficient to advance the development of more equitable and effective healthcare systems. The Humanities have the evidence base and the methodological tools to help address such social and cultural challenges.

We need to reignite the conversation about integrating the Humanities better into health research and health systems, including Humanities knowledge of our values and our pasts, understanding of the cultural forces that maintain inequities, and ability to analyze how we discuss and understand health.  The Humanities teach us that we have agency in our world, including a capacity to learn from the past and reinterpret our present to build a better future.

Read the "The Humanities and Health Policy" report 

On January 18, 2024, the RSC and the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences hosted an hour-long Webinar convening a panel to discuss how the Humanities – a group of methodologically diverse fields, including interdisciplinary studies that overlap significantly with the social determinants of health – are an underused source of cultural and social insight that is increasingly important and could be better leveraged.

Meet the panelists

Headshot of Sean Bagshaw

Sean Bagshaw

University of Alberta

Headshot of Erika Dyck

Erika Dyck

University of Saskatchewan

Headshot of Maya Goldenberg

Maya Goldenberg

University of Guelph

Headshot of Nazeem Muhajarine

Nazeem Muhajarine

University of Saskatchewan





Headshot of Nathan Nickel

Nathan Nickel

University of Manitoba

Headshot of Cynthia Milton

Cynthia Milton (moderator)

University of Victoria




This webinar is presented by: 

Logo of the Federation for the Humanities and social sciences

Logo of the Royal Society of Canada

[00:00:05:19] Cynthia Milton: Hi, welcome to everyone, thank you for being with us at our webinar today, a collaboration between the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada.

[00:00:19:11] Welcome everyone and thank you for joining today's webinar “Putting the Humanities to Work for Canadians.” I am Cynthia Milton from the University of Victoria, where I am the associate Vice-President of Research. It's my great pleasure to welcome you all to today's webinar.

[00:00:39:05] I am speaking to you today from the University of Victoria, which is on the lands of the Songhees and Esquimalt People, on whose traditional territory UVic stands and Lək̓ʷəŋən and W̱SÁNEĆ Peoples whose historical relationship continuous to these beautiful lands to this day.

[00:00:57:14] So we're hoping to move this conversation along on putting humanities to work for the health of Canadians. Today's webinar will discuss the findings and policy recommendations from the recent Royal Society of Canada report “The Humanities and Health Policy”, and how they can be put into practice. This report is available on the website of the Royal Society of Canada.

[00:01:26:11] So before we begin, I have a few housekeeping notes. Today, we were offering simultaneous interpretation in English and in French as well as closed captioning in both languages. These options can be found at the bottom of your screen. As well, the conversation will be recorded and there will be a Q&A session at the end of the webinar. You can submit your questions at any time by typing them into the Q&A box part of the Zoom function.

[00:02:02:18] So we have [...] five speakers today, and I will introduce each just prior to their comments. Each will speak for about 6 minutes and then we will be launching the Q&A. So let me start first by presenting Dr. Maya Goldenberg. Dr. Goldenberg is an associate professor of philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Guelph, where she is cross appointed with the Bachelor of Arts and Science. Maya, thank you very much for coming today.

[00:02:42:24] Maya Goldenberg: Nice to be here. So if I can start, since I'm the starting person, I want to just say a little bit about the pressing question of what is it that the health humanities can offer to health policy, public health practice as well. And I guess it would be helpful to disperse, distinguish, the humanities from let's say, the social sciences.

[00:03:13:16] So the humanities is the study of the human condition. So questions about meaning, questions about existence. And we study this through various media, art, film, music, literature. We have classics, languages, philosophy and religion. So roughly it’s the study of what people have created over time, whether those are belief systems or artworks and expressions that have been made about culture.

[00:03:45:12] So this of course, is distinct from, let's say, the social sciences, which studies patterns of human behavior within the humanities. There is quite a large area of health humanities and humanities disciplines approach health and illness as part of the human condition. And this turns out to be a very valuable way of thinking about health and illness. Given that we are, we have entered a pandemic era, at least that's what's been said by Anthony Fauci and other high-level virologists and epidemiologists. So instead of thinking of pandemic as something that is disruptive, and then we go back to normal, it's more valuable and more helpful to think about it as part of our normal trajectory.

[00:04:35:03] And of course, historians have been saying this for a while, that we tend to forget crises very quickly in that desire to go back to normal. Doing that, however, doesn't serve us well because forgetting doesn't allow us to learn from the past. We are better prepared when we learn from past experiences. And humanities gives us unique tools to do that. And we argue in the report that humanities disciplines are often underutilized in health policy development and even more in health technology research and implementation, even though these tools are quite valuable.

[00:05:20:04] So if I could say a little bit about what those humanities are that I keep referring to are, they are, first of all, historical perspectives. Humanities is largely driven by looking into the past. And of course, our history informs our current social and cultural context. The current context in which science and technology exist and where and where it where it evolves. And these historical perspectives could be better mobilized to help in understanding the forces that shape contemporary perceptions, concerns, assumptions about new policy issues or new technology.

[00:06:02:08] So that's a historical view over in philosophy, philosophers of health do what philosophers do, which is examining our assumptions or inferences, the concepts that we use when we communicate, and that those are the things that inform health, practice and policy. And by doing that, we sometimes uncover inconsistencies, a problematic usage, and we can often challenge those ways, those sort of common ways of thinking or common ways of speaking about things and introduce new ways to think and speak about issues that affect policy.

[00:06:40:18] Then of course there's ethical analysis as well. And we also draw - that's just history and philosophy. We draw from literature, from film, from religion, and from languages which we know are valuable resources for increasing the effectiveness and inclusiveness of policies. It can also improve our education, our outreach, our communications on public health, because humanities have those calls, those tools to decode cultural meanings, make sense of cultural idioms, the meanings behind words and images, analysis of rhetoric. And with those tools you can developed a much more nuanced messaging.

[00:07:25:20] And the final piece that humanities offers is incredible archives of information and experiences. But I want to leave that to my colleague, Erika Dyck, to talk more about archives.

[00:07:44:09] Cynthia Milton: Thank you very much, Maya. So Erika Dyck will speak next. Erika is a professor and a Canadian Research Chair in History of Health and Social Justice at the University of Saskatchewan. Thank you, Erika.

[00:08:03:21] Erika Dyck: Thank you, Cynthia. And if you bear with me just one moment, I will share my screen here, and show some few slides. I'm coming to you from Treaty 6 Territory in the homeland of the Métis at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. And I'm really pleased to be part of this conversation and to have had the opportunity to work with Maya and others on this report. And I'm going to also acknowledge my collaborator and friend Nazeem Muhajarine. I haven't told him that we're friends yet, but I hope that we are after working on this it's one of the one of the benefits of working across these collaborative projects that really bring community into focus, as we recognize quite quickly that actually we are all in this together across disciplines and across different ways that we've experienced the pandemic and how we want to remember it.

[00:08:57:06] So my part in and one of the contributions we made to the report and what I'll share with you briefly today is some of the work we were doing in Saskatchewan that was collaboratively funded by SSHRC [...] the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Foundation, and CIHR, the Canadian Institute of Health Research. And together we've assembled a team of a sort of interdisciplinary team of scholars and many, many community partners to try to take stock of that lesson that Maya has already pointed us to the concern that we might forget the pandemic or forget the lessons that we take from this.

[00:09:30:02] So we applied our historical skills to sort of set up the architecture for this project, and I'll run through a few ideas briefly. You can check out more detail, of course, on the website here, which we've called “Remember, Rebuild Saskatchewan.” So not only taking stock of the experiences, but also looking for ways to improve upon the delivery of public health services and also community infrastructure. Our objectives are broad based and they really draw from some of these humanities approaches to thinking about  how we might structure this research.

[00:10:01:07] We relied on qualitative research, and that part was largely driven by interviews, but also quantitative research that we did through partnership with Canadian Mental Health Association as one example, and Nazeem will talk a little bit more about that in his section. And then we've built community partnerships and having just come from a meeting just minutes before a landing here, one of the takeaway issues there that I really want to emphasize and I think the humanities has a lot to offer us, is thinking about the trust is involved in thinking about health decisions and health applications that come from those policies working with communities over the past few years.

[00:10:40:16] And as we think about lessons going forward, trust and risk assessment has become really important and how we, as humanities scholars, can start to unpack or decode some of those has become a really valuable tool. And of course, working together, we can also contribute to policy advocacy and we have writing skills, it turns out, in the humanities that can be helpful for particularly, we've been working with frontline service providers who certainly have good writing skills but less time. Along the way we've encountered or uncovered other partners. So I'll just point to a couple of here “Archives Unleashed,” which has really helped us to take stock of the digital turn in the way the communication has been on display in the pandemic.

[00:11:27:12] And I'll give a really specific example of that in just a moment. We've also partnered with “Covid in the House of Old,” which was a series of museum exhibits that traveled across Canada, drawing attention to long term care, and often some of the resilience of people living in those spaces, not just some of the catastrophic stories, although those are also very much on display. So give you two quick examples of some of the work that's come from this that draws from humanities perspectives. Now, this may not look like a typical humanities depiction, but this is something I'm really excited to share because I didn't do it.

[00:12:00:23] So I get to ventriloquise this brilliant PhD student’s work who downloaded Twitter during the pandemic. I believe that in the end, he sifted through and downloaded what we think might be tweets that came from Saskatchewan. As much as one can tell, you can see along the side here, if anyone's familiar with Saskatchewan politics, there are some sort of key political characters on that list. What he did with this, though, is try to measure how conversations on Twitter were shaping reactions to policies.

[00:12:30:23] So this is digital history or digital humanities at work. Here's a quick example of where we start to see some really fine tuned analyzes that are really helpful in how we assess the way that decisions were made. On the left hand side, you'll see tweets from our Premier Scott Moe, who maybe get more followers as a result of being Premier. What you're seeing here on your screen are reactions to his tweets. What you see on the right hand side is the Leader of the Opposition or NDP leader at the time, Ryan Meili, himself a doctor.

[00:13:03:21] And you can see that there just was very little engagement with the Leader of the Opposition. This is helpful for us to understand as we think about measuring the impact of these communication strategies. And you may be wondering about that spike on Scott Moe's side. That would be the convoy that went to Ottawa, that's right around the convoy time. So this kind of digital humanities work allows us to do now do some more fine grained analyzes or focus us on areas within the pandemic to sort of disaggregate the timeline.

[00:13:34:13] And finally, I'm going to show you a quick example, and maybe this will play while I'm talking. We also put together a digital memorial that tried to combat some of the quantitative information that was coming at us during the pandemic about the numbers of people or the caseloads and the mortality rates. In doing so, we drew from publicly available information and then also had an open portal that people could volunteer information, families.

[00:14:01:05] This is just a quick set of screenshots that you can see of the way that this digital memorial functions to draw attention to some of the lives lost during the pandemic that allow us to get at some of the stories and really some of the diversity of the lives that were lost. We also recognize that a lot of people don't use obituaries anymore, which is another takeaway from this project. But suffice to say, some of our strategies, perspectives on capturing the history of this is to draw attention to the individuals, the talents, the skills, the memories that have been lost as a result of the pandemic. And finally I just want to give thanks to the team, that has our core team that has worked tirelessly to put together our COVID archive and our “Build Back Better” site and the ongoing community meetings that we are having as we try to make some now general policy recommendations and also continue to build those trusting relationships with our community partners.

[00:14:59:19] And I think I will end there other than to just give a snapshot of some of the kinds of community organizations we've been working with. This is not entirely comprehensive, but it gives you a sense of [...], vaccine development, but also a number of labor unions and frontline service providers, whether that's long-term care, food banks, Salvation Army and housing services. As we try to capture the impact of the pandemic on, these service providers. Thank you.

[00:15:31:11] Cynthia Milton: Thank you Erika.

[00:15:32:11] Erika Dyck: I’ll continue sharing, because Nazeem is next and I have his slides.

[00:15:35:10] Cynthia Milton: Okay, thanks for the IT support as well. So I'm happy to invite Nazeem Muhajarine to speak next. He's the professor and epidemiologist in Community Health and Epidemiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan and director of the Saskatchewan population Health and Evaluation Research Unit. Thank you.

[00:16:01:03] Nazeem Muhajarine: Thank you very much indeed for that introduction. And Erika, thank you very much for setting this up very nicely. And now and I'm also joining everyone from Saskatoon, Treaty 6 territory and also the land of Native people. And I'm a immigrant to this land so I can immigrated from Sri Lanka. What I'm going to do is I'm going to focus on one of the two strands of the Remember Rebuild Saskatchewan project that Erika started us off on. The Strand I am going to focus on is the “Build Back Better” that I lead.

[00:16:42:16] And this project is focused on understanding the wider social impact and specifically mental health, substance use, housing insecurity and food insecurity associated with quality. And the “Build Back Better” project is often referred to as our health data project among ourselves because we did implement a population survey of Saskatchewan adults in late 2022, and we had to use this quantitative data to do a complex analysis to unpack these four outcomes that I mentioned. “Build Back Better” is indeed a project that collected stories from those who provide services and those who receive services in the communities across Saskatchewan and how they navigated the pandemic.

[00:17:29:07] The numbers and the stories from the “Build Back Better” have been used by community organizations, by health authorities to take measure of the full impact not just on the COVID outcomes and deaths, but the full impact of the pandemic, and to consider resource allocation and program implementation decisions moving forward. Next slide. So in the brief time I have, I'm going to focus on one report, just one report from the “Build Back Better” project. This is titled “Lessons Learned from the Pandemic.”

[00:18:03:18] As Erika said, just minutes before the start of this webinar, we just arrived from a community forum and really very good, rich discussions there. And the genesis of this report actually occurred in one of this community forum in a meeting with our community partners. One executive director wanted what lessons we take away from the way that community based organizations pivoted and delivered services to clients in the height of the pandemic, there were some creative ways services were delivered not only in Saskatchewan but across Canada, perhaps across the world.

[00:18:42:09] This executive director wondered what, if any of the ways that service organizations change what they do would stay going forward. What would we preserve? What would we hold on to that we would refer to as better ways to do things? What innovations will stay and which ones will revert to the pre-pandemic way of doing things? Next slide.

[00:19:08:07] So inspired by our community partners, [...] we set out to answer these three questions in the report, and I will not read this and it is very straightforward. And the next slide. So this report, all of 35 pages, has nuggets of insights that are useful, especially for those in working with people who need services and support. I hope you could see this on your screen. On my screen it is a little bit out of focus. This report is full of revealing quotes and because of time limits, I can’t share these with you, but I'm going to go right to the punchline with this slide.

[00:19:54:10] This particular investigation led to three themes of findings named innovations on the top left, approaches and navigation.  Let’s just pick one set of findings shown here, “Approaches to service delivery.” These are the ways that service providers changed their ways of delivering services during the pandemic. In so doing, they maintained service delivery and optimized the health and well-being of people. So the focus on person centered services, meeting people where they're at, and that's the only way that they could meet people and focus on psychological health and safety, not only just physical health and infection and coordinated service delivery among a continuum of care, but variation and prevention.

[00:20:44:03] Next slide, please. The findings presented in this report showcase the experience, adaptability and resilience displayed by service providers and people who access services during the pandemic. They also highlighted the shortcomings in our existing systems to offer services to community members collectively. These insights provide invaluable lessons to improve the equity and sustainability of service delivery systems. Next slide, please. So I want to end with this slide and some reflections.

[00:21:18:06] This is an ongoing, you know, sort of for our work in progress. On the left here, I am suggesting some of the benefits from putting humanities back into health research, as we have done in this project. Research questions have clear partial value. In fact, the question started with our community partners. It is their questions that we are addressing in this report. For example, methods are more human centered, not only service, those are fairly standard, but also talking to people, listening to their stories and telling their stories. Community participation is robust. And on the right, some suggested challenges or pitfalls or musings that we need to pay attention to as we approach humanities back in health. So we perhaps can unpack that a little bit later in the Q&A. Thank you.

[00:22:16:07] Cynthia Milton: Thank you very much Nazeem. Will now invite Nathan Nickel to give his presentation. Nathan is the director of the Manitoba Center for Health Policy and associate and associate professor of community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. He's a scientist at the Children's Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba and the associate editor of the International Breastfeeding Journal. Thank you very much, Nathan.

[00:22:44:16] Nathan Nickel: Thank you. And next slide. Just want to begin by acknowledging that I'm coming to you today from Treaty 1 territory which is the traditional homeland of the Anishinaabe, the Cree, the Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene peoples and it's also the homeland of the Red River Métis Nation. Just by personal positioning, I am a newcomer to Canada, moved here about ten years ago, and I'm originally from Southern California with Latino heritage. Next slide, please.

[00:23:22:02] I'm going to be talking to you just a little bit about some work that happened in partnership with the Manitoba Métis Federation and the Manitoba Center for Health Policy. Looking at some of the outcomes linked with the rollout of vaccines and COVID vaccines here in Manitoba, and starting to map out some future explorations with community members. So to begin with - next slide - the Manitoba Center for Health Policy hosts - sorry, our project was led by a team including the Minister of Health from the Manitoba Métis Federation, Chartrand. The Director of Health, [...] Kloss, myself and Dr. Michelle Dreidger who is a Métis scholar.

[00:24:18:01] And so what we started off with was understanding that the experiences of Manitoba may have really been shaped by historical interactions with the Canadian government, with the provincial government, and that those past interactions are going to shape what took place when the vaccines were rolled out here in Manitoba. Next slide. So in order for the first part of our project, we wanted to understand what some of the patterns of vaccine uptake were from a whole population level.

[00:24:58:17] We leveraged data that's housed in the Manitoba Population Research Data Repository at the Manitoba Center for Health Policy. And it's a collection of information that documents virtually every individual who lives in Manitoba, documents all of their contacts with the health care system. And so through that, we were able to go into the repository and find all records of COVID vaccines that were administered to Métis citizens or citizens of the Manitoba Métis Federation, and link that with some other information related to social, and structural determinants to understand not only the trends in the pandemic in terms of COVID infections, but also understand the vaccine uptake at a population level. Next slide, please.

[00:25:54:21] And so what we did was we looked at what was happening with the vaccine rollout once they became available here in Manitoba, Métis citizens were not initially prioritized when the first dose of the vaccine came out. And what we found when we looked into the data was that on average Métis citizens were getting vaccinated about one day later than the rest of Manitoba population. In the late May, early summer of the initial rollout of the vaccines, at that point, the provincial government prioritized Métis citizens to be vaccinated a lot ahead of the rest of the province.

[00:26:44:04] And once that prioritized action took place, it went from being vaccines taking one day later - which was what took place during the first dose - to Métis citizens, getting vaccinated about 1 to 1 and a half days sooner than their counterparts. And this investigation looked at things like did that vary by age? Did that vary by where people lived in the province? Different health status? And we consistently found that by prioritizing Métis citizens, they were able to get vaccinated sooner. Next, please.

[00:27:26:24] But one of the things that came out during the quantitative phase was some interesting patterns that made us want to look a little bit deeper into, well, what were some of the community experiences with this vaccine rollout? And so we engaged in some preliminary community consultation and key informant interviews. And what we heard, going back to what Erika mentioned, was that there was a real distrust within the communities for the provincial government's initial rollout of vaccines. And some of that distrust came from confusing messaging that came out during the pandemic from the provincial government.

[00:28:14:05] Some of the distrust came from inconsistent messaging that arose. And so as a result of some of these stories, that we were starting to hear from Métis citizens, the team went and secured some additional funding, which we just got access to begin looking at well, what were some of the outcomes of the systemic and structural racism that permeates Manitoba as it relates to Métis citizens? And so this next phase is just underway where we're engaging in community dialogs to understand historical interactions with the health care system here in Manitoba and whether and how those influence access to vaccines during the pandemic.

[00:29:07:04] And we're also doing a quantitative piece to understand, well, what would have happened if these systems of systemic and structural racism did not exist in Manitoba or how much harm would have been avoided in the absence of this systemic and structural racism. So blending together, understanding of culture and interactions with the system, with quantitative methods to get a holistic understanding of what citizens experiences with the pandemic were. And so that work is also being led by Minister Chartrand, Director Kloss, Dr. Dreidger and myself. Next slide. And so that brings me to the end, and I'll pass it off to our other presenters.

[00:30:00:04] Cynthia Milton: Right, thank you very much, Nathan. Our last presenter is Dr. Sean Bagshaw. So Sean is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. Thank you, Sean.

[00:30:19:23] Sean Bagshaw: Thank you Cynthia. It's a pleasure to be here. First, I'd like to acknowledge that I also come from Treaty six territory and Homeland of the Métis. I do want to extend a thank you to Drs. Jones and Wright for the invitation to contribute to this policy briefing and to my fellow member, Dr. Dyck, Goldenberg who we heard from today and Dr. [...] who didn't join us, but also importantly, to the Royal Society of Canada, for allowing focus on the importance of humanities in the context of the COVID 19 pandemic.

[00:30:53:02] By training, I'm an intensive care physician, I'm a clinician scientist. And I would say I am not an expert necessarily in the humanities as it would pertain to pandemics or other public health issues. I think my contribution to the policy briefing is from the lens of the bedside and at the [...] during the pandemic. And it's in this context that I was hoping that I could offer some comment. You know, during the pandemic if I wasn't working at the bedside, I was often sequestered at home and I found myself with some opportunity to read and read about prior pandemics.

[00:31:28:21] And one of the most outstanding books I read was “The Great Influenza” by John Barry, which I'm sure is familiar to many. But what was amazing was to read the historical account in that book that occurred during the 1918 - 1919 influenza pandemic that could very easily have been superimposed on what we saw and what was happening in 2020 and 2022. And I think this nicely speaks to Maya’s point during her presentation, around historical perspective and perhaps not using humanities, having not used them to learn that it's a missed opportunity. So some of the things that I think we witnessed, we witnessed widespread implementation of public health measures.

[00:32:08:20] Of course, physical distancing, masking, and there was some impact on civil liberties. We witnessed, you know, public protests through these public health measures. We witnessed a vocal anti-science and vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination commentary. We also witnessed challenges in the clarity of public health messaging, and that seemed to propagate widespread misinformation of unproven and discredited interventions.

[00:32:36:18] And I, I can attest to my own anecdotal about how many times I was asked from family members of critically ill patients about why they were not receiving hydroxychloroquine or why they were not receiving ivermectin. And some got quite upset, quite emotional and quite angry. And it seemed to propagate some distrust to some extent. I think there's important differences between what we've gone through in the last few years and prior pandemics, specifically 1918, not so much pandemics H1N1 Influenza or SARS but are really important for us to emphasize, particularly, you know, from my viewpoint on the front line.

[00:33:16:16] And these might be really important learnings that we can one archive, but then to advance, and some of which I think not all, but some of which had real negative implications that I think we should not cast away to distant memory. So some positives though, like at no time in history were we able to so rapidly identify a responsible pathogen for a pandemic, even though it was novel. But we saw, along with that really rapid mobilization of clinical trials and health evidence. I mean unprecedented.

[00:33:49:11] And to some extent, while that can be viewed as a success, I think much of the public was not prepared for how the science evolved in the context of this pandemic. We now have far greater advancements in how we can support acutely ill and critically ill patients, simple supportive care like oxygen therapy, specific interventions like antibiotics to treat bacterial infection. And if you think about 1918, you know, so many people died during that pandemic in part because they got secondary bacterial infections. We didn't have antibiotics then, but also the advent of intensive care that really came out of the polio pandemic in the 1950s.

[00:34:27:21] But to say the least, we have mechanical ventilators right now to rescue people who have overt respiratory failure. These are differences than prior pandemics that certainly going way back. We saw widespread implementation during this pandemic of visitation restriction policy, both in the acute care settings and in long care settings. And these policies, while implemented with the best of intentions, given that we were confronted with a new pathogen and a potential existential threat, to be honest, they likely had profound negative effects in retrospect, certainly for critically ill patients, what I saw and what the other critical care health care staff saw pretty routinely with that patients were isolated from their families, from their loved ones, from the medical staff to some extent because we were under gloves and masks, and gowns in isolation rooms.

[00:35:22:15] And that was really challenging. But I would say that even amongst older and more vulnerable populations in long term care, this was always obviously a huge challenge. And I think it did work to compound the negative effects of social and social isolation, which we know can be terrible for older patients. We witnessed high degrees of burnout and I think the longer term implications of this in the acute and intensive care workforce are still being felt. Perhaps some some health care workers anticipated retiring, but carried on out of the sense of duty and then left once things sort of die down a little bit.

[00:36:01:17] But I think at the same time as well, we have fewer [workers] potentially entering the workforce. And so we have a workforce crisis right now in critical care, but also, I think into care across the board. And I wonder if this is exacerbated by the sometimes baffling but very angry public protests we saw about anti-lockdown, anti-public health, anti-vaccination occurring on the doorsteps of hospitals and acute care facilities when you know, the workers inside those facilities really were so remote from policy about those kinds of health interventions. So I wonder what you know, whether there's an interaction there. I think we also saw importantly about how misinformation had a far greater reach due to social media platforms.

[00:36:47:05] And I think Dr. Dyck hinted at this. You're thinking about digital humanities evaluating some of the public health response to public health interventions. But these, you know, these social media platforms can algorithmically reinforce myths or distrust in public health, anti-science viewpoints and certainly other emotion. And, you know, the final thing I'll add is that the public, in my view, clearly had challenges in understanding who was providing credible public health information in a timely fashion. But also there was there was a real difficulty in understanding how scientific discovery, new evidence generation and how that evidence was integrated into better informed updates to to recommend how we treat patients or prevent COVID, etc., in high-risk patients happened so quickly, but never before in history.

[00:37:43:13] And I think that highlights, again, maybe a little bit of what Dr. Nickel said in his description of the vaccine rollout amongst Métis citizens in Manitoba, that could have been one of the things that we had to consider and learn from. So those were just some thoughts that I had. So hopefully we can add to that in the discussion. Thank you.

[00:38:04:05] Cynthia Milton: Thank you, Sean. Thank you to all the commentators and for your work on this policy briefing and the insights that you've brought to the importance of of bringing humanities to health research. We're going to go now into a period of question and answer and I invite people to please put your Q&A into the special box that's available to you. But in that in the meantime, I'd like to start with a question. I myself am a historian, and so I don't need to be convinced of the importance of humanities. I work at the University of Victoria in the research enterprise.

[00:38:54:15] So one of the things that I've noticed, and I think several of us in the humanities have noticed, is that we're in a we're in a strange period. So we understand. And I think you've all made this very clear in your presentations, the need for the humanities to help us tackle these pressing challenges. So we're in the pandemic era, we have more specific opioid crisis, that, hopefully, will be of shorter duration. We have concerns around planetary health.

[00:39:24:21] So these are all incredibly challenging issues that that we're facing. But we're also in a period of decreasing enrollment in the humanities, of the shrinking of humanities faculties and the kinds of courses being offered. And kind of just a general I, I fear undermining and undervaluing of the humanities. And so I think the policy briefing that you've done and this presentation as well,  are part of how we put the humanities back in. But, but what other things can we do to put the humanities back in? How do we how do we get the social buy in, the political buy in for the humanities? In my dreams, I would imagine could we have a chief science advisor that's a chief humanities advisor. But what other things could we do and should we do? Nazeem I see your hand does that [...]

[00:40:30:18] Nazeem Muhajarine: Thank you, I think I'll offer a couple of thoughts there very quickly. You know, I think, first of all, historians and and everyone who works in the humanities when they are working on projects, that are interdisciplinary, like ours is Saskatchewan, you you need to identify yourself as a historian, you know? And I think it is very important to keep that identity intact and what you bring to the table, the contribution, you know, I think it shouldn't be melded, it shouldn't be invisible. I mean, you know, maybe it's just obvious, [...] the other thing that we need to train young scholars, students, graduate students in humanities, in an interdisciplinary setting.

[00:41:31:11] So, I mean, one of the things that I didn't get to to speak very quickly was, you know, was the manager of our project was a historian, the current manager of our project was specialized in adult pedagogy and community help. I think that that disciplinary setting you know needs to be cultivated very early. And I think we need to make a case for funders, for mentors to be you know to do that in that interdisciplinary setting. So we need to catch them when they're young and build them from there.

[00:42:14:20] Cynthia Milton: Thank you Nazeem, Nathan?

[00:42:17:18] Nathan Nickel: Actually, I think Erika had her hand up before me,

[00:42:23:11] Erika Dyck: Thank you, Nathan. It doesn’t matter, I'll say quickly. You know, I think that what we saw in the in the pandemic was that, and Sean has touched upon this, there was good science and sometimes it wasn't enough, that the communication issues were really critical.

[00:42:38:01] And that's something we've learned in our in our community work as well. That communication has been really key. And it is one of those skills that we have, and also our capacity to sort of step back and see perspective, and, you know, draw out perspective on something that is a crisis. You know, we're trying to look back from the crisis, and measure things across a wider context. And that has turned out to be really valuable. And I think it's something that we can advocate better for ourselves, I think, as humanities scholars. But also I think, you know, perhaps there are lessons to be taken at the tri-council level where we recognize the value of humanities scholarships as integrated into those kinds of interdisciplinary projects. And the mechanisms are there, but often humanities is not part of those conversations.

[00:43:25:22] Cynthia Milton: Thank you Erika. Nathan then Maya.

[00:43:29:13] Nathan Nickel: Yeah, so in addition, to like all the fantastic points that were just raised, I think there’s also an opportunity historically, typically within health policy, government or policy or whatnot, tends to reach out to the clinicians and to the more positivist, quantitative oriented individuals. And I think that there's a real responsibility, like I'm a quantitative researcher, a real responsibility for us, as quantitative researchers and clinicians to highlight where the gaps that our work has and the need for humanities to really fill out and to be brought in to make better policy.

[00:44:14:19] I think that we have a chance to be ambassadors and allies with our humanities colleagues and point out when humanities is missing and that it needs to be at the table in order for us to have the best policy approaches and solutions to pandemics and health issues. So I think some of the responsibility also lies on us within this space.

[00:44:43:11] Cynthia Milton: Merci Nathan. Maya.

[00:44:46:00] Maya Goldenberg: I was going to make an argument that sort of bridged, what Nathan said and Erika said, I certainly think more humanities is a valuable thing. So that's humanities writing and speaking to the public, whether it's in public talks, writing on online open access, online forums, like The Conversation and in the work you get to show what a humanities scholar can offer to contemporary issues.

[00:45:16:06] At the same time  difficult to do that  because humanities departments are being squeezed. The cultural message that STEM is going to save us has been around for a long time, and because of that, humanities gets additionally sidelined and sidelined. And perhaps some humanities scholars do that, they sort of turn inwards towards our own interesting but internal issues and debates rather than facing outwards so more public humanities and just like scientists are being encouraged to do more public facing work, Humanities scholars should be doing the same to really advocate for ourselves, and hopefully bring in more resources to do that.

[00:46:02:03] Because I will say, in my own professional setting, humanities is being squeezed so hard that we can barely keep up with demand. We are not able to. We have, for example, on my campus, we have students from outside of the College of Arts who would like to take philosophy courses, we don't have seats for them, so we need to we need to make the case. But we also need some assistance to actually do the work we'd like to do.

[00:46:30:10] Cynthia Milton: Thank you Maya, Sean?

[00:46:37:07] Sean Bagshaw: I agree with all the comments so far. I think, you know, maybe I'll just bring the lens back towards medical education and maybe there's an opportunity for us to think about how to embed, you know, strong examples of the strength and power of humanities in medical education. You know, there is Arts and Humanities in Health and Medicine Program at the University of Alberta in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, led by Pamela Brett-MacLean, who I believe has a Ph.D. in philosophy.

[00:47:10:23] But this embeds a bit of a program in undergraduate medical education, but I'm not clear whether its mission is aligned with, let's say, the recommendations of the policy briefing, whereby it's actually, you know, providing an opportunity for medical students, medical resident learners, to understand the important historical perspective of what humanities brings in understanding these public health issues, these pandemics, you know, good examples as well as the opiate sort of crisis, planetary health, etc.

[00:47:47:06] So that's another angle that I think, we could probably, you know, pay some attention to that might serve a greater purpose here.

[00:48:02:17] Cynthia Milton: Merci Sean. So we’ll go to another question I have, which is how to prioritize these kinds of collaborate science between health sciences and health humanities. So several of you spoke about different collaborations that one can imagine and one could do. And if we were to prioritize them, how might we go about that? Where should we start first, or put our energies at this stage?

[00:48:34:18] Maya Goldenberg: It's already the case that a lot of the tri-council funding is looking for interdisciplinary teams. I feel that that's already changed, at least in my discipline, which is philosophy, where it made philosophers need to think more about contemporary issues because that's where the funding was. The next step, of course, is to make these interdisciplinary teams, but I've heard this from from many who have been on these teams, and I've been on them too, is sometimes we get we get together, and then we don’t know how to do it. We don't know what to do when we're there.

[00:49:11:06] So it seems like we need a little bit of training about how to actually integrate our work together. We have many brilliant examples like Erika's and Nazeem's work, where we can certainly learn from examples, but it would be nice if we had more guidance on how to set it up for success.

[00:49:34:23] Cynthia Milton: Nazeem.

[00:49:36:07] Nazeem Muhajarine: It's a it's a tough question, Cynthia Yeah, but I think that Maya is right, I think it's already happening, new frontiers funding initiatives are a good example out there. All three councils are funding together. But I think it takes certain type of personality, I think, to be quite honest, it takes a certain type of personality researcher, and community member to actually sort of work across the home discipline, the home discipline area, the core discipline, our area.

[00:50:12:15] It takes a lot of patience, a high, high degree of trust, trust among them, between, colleagues and between university researchers and community members. It's difficult to create these relationships, trust relationships while you're doing the project. But, you know, I think it has to be there to some extent, there has to be an openness. So that [...] goes back to that training issue, you know, training, whether it is in medical education or graduate students. You know, I think we have to we have to envision a different way of training future researchers and scholars. And, you know, and I think that's where it begins.

[00:51:01:00] Cynthia Milton: Thanks Nazeem, Nathan?

[00:51:04:00] Nathan Nickel: Thanks, Nazeem actually ended where my mind was at, just around the idea, of what type of training are we providing? If I think about in graduate school, the focus really is on you as an independent individual researcher, whether it's in the humanities or social sciences, or health sciences, and, and making that transition of demonstrating one's capacity to, be an independent researcher to being part of a team which is, I think, essential within this type of work.

[00:51:37:09] It is something that not everyone can navigate well. And so my mind was starting to think, does that need to be considered? Like if this is an intentional direction that needs to be pursued, does that ability to work within a team need to be considered even during the admissions process? Or as we're starting to think about folks entering into graduate school? So that was the first area that my mind was going.

[00:52:06:22] And my second, you asked about like what types of partnerships or what types of work should be prioritized within this space. And there's an element, I think, that has come out of our conversation, just around understanding culture as it relates to interactions within the health care system or interactions with messaging and pandemic policy. That could be really interesting to both pursue from a research perspective, but I think could - as we understand, like culture, like with ethnography or from anthropological research - can help us think how do we move forward with some of these policies a little bit more effectively? So that was the other space my mind was going. But I agree with Nazeem, that was a challenging question and I'm still processing it.

[00:53:02:06] Cynthia Milton: Thank you. And Erika?

[00:53:02:17] Erika Dyck: Thank you. I am sort of taking cues from the community that we were just at. And I think that one of the things we've done over the past hundred or so years, is we've gotten really good at putting our disciplines into their own little boxes and we almost have to unlearn the cultures of those disciplines in order to find ways of working together  because we, fundamentally, think differently.

[00:53:26:02] And that is both an asset and a challenge when it comes to coming up with some kind of structure for decision making. You know, I want Sean to be decisive when I come to him with an emergency medical situation and like, I'm not the person you want to come to. As I say, well, you know, it's complicated and there's a lot of nuanced perspectives to consider. Both of those have value, but they come at costs and at different times.

[00:53:50:06] And so it's difficult to assess the kind of prioritization that you give. When do you want a nuanced perspective and, you know, a really thoughtful, reflective, slow examination, slow research, maybe even. And when do you want a decisive - but we might get mad later - decision.

[00:54:06:11] And I think we need, you know, we need to sort of build in infrastructure to help us think about how we make decisions as a team that doesn't have a kind of tokenized, whether it's, you know, the science perspective was tokenized or the humanities perspective is tokenized. But how do we start to think about collaborating in meaningful ways that actually appreciate the different cultures of thinking and decision making that go into what makes our disciplines rich and interesting?

[00:54:31:16] Cynthia Milton: Right, thank you Erika. I'm going to give the last question to Julia Wright, from Dalhousie and then you can answer that question. So, Julia, go ahead.

[00:54:43:05] Julia Wright: Thank you. Thank you, everyone, for a wonderful panel. There's so much to think about. I was wondering, in my experience working across disciplines, and in ocean humanities as well as in health humanities, the biggest challenge is language. We don't just have different terms, we have different methodologies, we have different ways of writing and different notions of what constitutes persuasive writing.

[00:55:06:15] So those are absolutely barriers. But I found that what can often drag us over those barriers, is an ethical commitment to some kind of larger goal, be it academic ethics, improving the conversation, a public policy goal. And I wonder if you have any thoughts around how that can help drive a more positive conversation to get us over those kinds of, superficial really, divisions at a time when we are being so ethically challenged by the mess that surround us politically and socially and so on. So I just sort of throw that out there.

[00:55:47:10] Cynthia Milton: Thanks Julia. Yeah Erika?

[00:55:50:07] Erika Dyck: Just to say this really quickly and I'm stealing this from our community members this morning, But they described this as a reciprocal set of decision making processes. And I think that's something we can learn from them. And the example they gave was, you know, firefighters working with Poverty Coalition people, to put it in a generic way, they require different sets of skills to answer the problem.

[00:56:12:10] And the problems that they have are different in scale and in urgency, and yet working together in a reciprocal way really help them to deal with things. And I think we could take some lessons from that into the academy as well, and think about where reciprocity lies in our relationships.

[00:56:29:06] Julia Wright: Yeah, if I could just add to, I think one of the problems that we can run into when we start thinking about that kind of goal, so alleviating poverty, improving vaccine take up in underserved populations and so on, is that we are often told that as the academics, we're supposed to be objective and that can create a kind of an ethical discomfort with saying, I believe in the public good on this particular front, and I can mobilize my research to help us achieve some success with that, if I can collaborate with other people who also share that goal. So it kind of asks us to get outside of that notion of academic objectivity, perhaps in ways that are troubling.

[00:57:22:03] Cynthia Milton: So we're at the end of our of our time now, unfortunately. But I hope that this to be an ongoing conversation as we all work to putting the humanities back into public health, back into our decision making on a lot of different fronts as we confront these different challenges ahead of us. So thank you to all the speakers for your time and your work. Thank you for the policy briefing that you've put together, and I wish you much luck and success and I look forward to future collaborations.