Storytelling for Health Justice

By Amber Hollingsworth | January 2022

OHSU is funding projects this year that will impact the institution's diversity goals and stimulate and sustain anti-racist action. One of these projects is The “Power With” Anthology: Storytelling for Health Justice, led by the OHSU Family Medicine RELATE Lab.

The RELATE Lab (Relationships in Equity, Leadership, And Team Effectiveness) launched in 2017 with a mission to co-create a more human-centered, equity promoting health system. It’s a team of community organizers, educators, learners, multimedia specialists, physicians, public health clinicians, researchers, social scientists, and storytellers.

One of the team’s core beliefs is that lived experiences of structural oppression should most heavily inform how policies and programs are created. “We also believe the practice of storytelling is a powerful vehicle for transformation,” says Project Lead Elaine Uchison. “Personal narratives have the power to change not only individual hearts and minds but, when done as a collective practice, have the potential to transform entire systems.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased collective awareness of all the ways in which our current healthcare system has long been broken. Most importantly, this crisis has made it impossible to ignore the systemic racism and inequities that have always existed in our communities, our institutions, and in our professional and personal relationships.

This moment provides a unique opportunity to re-imagine a different way of being and practicing – a “power-with” framework that centers and implements the perspectives of those who experience systematic oppression – and to co-create a more humane healthcare system.

About the project

With the anthology, the team will:

  • Develop a collection of multimedia stories that highlight the experiences of individuals (community members, patients, and healthcare workers/trainees) who have been systematically and disproportionately impacted by the “power-over” dynamics of the healthcare system.
  • Create an educational toolkit to help facilitate discussions around stories of lived expertise and conversations about what a transformed healthcare system might look like.
  • Facilitate educational community discussions using stories with OHSU workers/trainees, patients and community members in collaboration with our existing community-based partners.

OHSU's Racial Equity and Inclusion funds will be used to compensate storytellers and support one of the team’s multimedia storytellers.

Cirila Estela Vasquez Guzman speaking into a mic on stage
Cirila Estela Vasquez Guzman, Ph.D., at a virtual storytelling event in 2021.