The inaugural recipient of the Dorrance Dean’s Award for Research & Entrepreneurialism is Dr. Kristy L. Slominski, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies.
Slominksi is awarded $20,000 for her project, “Health Humanities Training in Religion and Culture,” which will create an instruction module in religious studies that is specifically tailored for healthcare professionals, including students in medical and nursing schools.
Existing health humanities initiatives tend to focus on artistic creativity, which have shown to be beneficial, but more contributions from the humanities are necessary, Slominski says. Further integration of cultural education, particularly surrounding religious beliefs, can have a significant impact.
“Healthcare professionals must be aware of diverse religious approaches to health in order to interact with patients in informed, respectful and holistic ways,” she says. “Learning to identify religious concerns is vital to understanding patient reactions and areas of resistance, which can lead to more sensitive and effective health education.”
Religious beliefs shape people’s lives in numerous ways related to health and healthcare, from framing life’s “big questions,” to guiding practices around reproductive health, end-of-life care, methods of preventing and managing sickness and much more, Slominski says.
Additionally, religious discrimination often intersects with other factors influencing health inequities, including racism, classism and anti-LGBTIQ stances, so a careful approach to studying religion is essential for improving access to equitable healthcare that respects the full humanity of each person, she says.
“Religious studies provides critical tools for analyzing these complex interactions between religions and cultures as they impact many aspects of health and healthcare,” she says.
The project will produce a three-to-four hour training module that offers religious studies resources tailored for healthcare professionals. The module will include a series of videos, including six short explanatory videos centered on applying religious studies skills and six “deeper dive” videos that connect these skills to case studies. The training will also include quizzes and reflective exercises, along with tips on how those involved with the training of healthcare professionals can integrate this knowledge into the broader curriculum. This training will be piloted for students in the Bioethics Master’s program at the College of Medicine-Phoenix.
The training module will serve as the groundwork for a long-term interdisciplinary, collaborative project to enhance the training and adapt it for a wide variety of healthcare students and workers. Slominski intends future iterations of this project to provide opportunities for partnerships across the university, demonstrating the relevance and high-impact contributions that the humanities can make to the health sciences.
Future expansions could include the creation of digital simulations and potentially marketable training modules that the university could license.
Slominski will also incorporate the project into her courses, providing opportunities for undergraduate students to research health humanities and create a digital repository of training resources in religion and culture, with an emphasis on the Southwest. This repository will be designed as a resource for the general public as well as for programs involved in the training of healthcare professionals.
The project grows out of the existing Religious Studies for Health Professionals program and will incorporate insights from Slominski’s current pedagogical research project, “Applied Religious Studies for Health Professionals,” funded by the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning.
The Dorrance Dean’s Award for Research & Entrepreneurialism encourages scholars to not only “be inspiring and evidence-based,” but also to “be fearless about possible failure because even failure will generate new knowledge.”
“This bold call was a timely response to a pandemic that continues to disproportionately affect women’s scholarly productivity, especially those with young children like myself. Amidst precarity, the invitation to be daring and not afraid to fail gave me the extra push to begin this much-needed project that has the potential to transform how healthcare professionals think about religious diversity,” Slominski says.
The Dorrance Dean’s Award for Research & Entrepreneurialism is one component of the College of Humanities’ Fearless Inquiries Project, a long-term, flagship effort specifically aimed at catalyzing a national culture that prizes open discussion, independent judgement and the questioning of stubborn assumptions.
“On behalf of the entire College, I want to express our gratitude to Jacquelynn and Bennett Dorrance for supporting the Fearless Inquiries Project and enabling these crucial initiatives,” said Dorrance Dean Alain-Philippe Durand.
Slominski was selected for the award following an internal, competitive process, with a selection committee composed of alumni and other national leaders.
“Introducing the humanities to new audiences in new ways is a crucial part of the mission of the College as well as the Fearless Inquiries Project,” said Ken S. McAllister, Associate Dean for Research & Program Innovation. “As Dr. Slominski demonstrates, the humanities and religious studies can have a positive impact on the world of healthcare in myriad ways.”