#Medrhet & the Job Market

As we’re moving through the summer, the social media crew (Maria Novotny, Lori Beth De Hertogh, and Rachel Bloom-Polar) have been posting some intriguing topics on twitter and the Flux Facebook group. We’re working toward having some additional content appear here to intersect with those topics.

Last week the topic was how to negotiate the job market with a #medrhet focus. Since summer is the perfect time to be working on job market materials and doing some hard thinking about that process, this topic was the perfect one to expand.

The job market is tricky, and it’s getting tighter. While good jobs are still possible in composition/rhetoric, that area is now overproducing graduates or for those who want to immediately disagree, I’ll go as far as to say that it’s bordering on that. The numbers of graduate programs 90+ and the number of jobs, around 200 tell their own story. My number of jobs separate out the technical and professional communication jobs because my own research and close attention to the job market in that area has shown that many TPC jobs will go unfilled rather than fill them with someone who doesn’t fit. (Read another way,  rather than fill them with someone who has no work in the area and only a composition degree.) In TPC, the number of jobs with specializations preferred and the number of graduates are still at a mis-match, which means in TPC the best candidates are experiencing a buyer’s market.

There are a number of job search types, such as  a wide net search (applying for all jobs that you feel you are qualified for all across the country); a limited search (targeting just the jobs that you are ideally qualified for in specific locations or specific types of institutions); a geographically limited search (usually based on you or your partner’s inability to move from the region you currently live in); alt-ac positions (those positions that alternative to traditional academic jobs, which normally starts with a position within higher ed but traditional tenure-track faculty); or jobs in industry. In every case, you need to decide on a couple of things first

  • who you are as a candidate
  • what you want out of the job

Who you are as a candidate means you need to know what skills and expertise you have that can complement the place you’re applying. What you want out the job is a bigger question that hinges on other life factors (e.g., your partner and their job or knowing that you don’t want to do research all the time, etc.). Neither one of these things are easy to figure out, but both are essential to having a successful job search.

All jobs are not the same, and you have to prepare yourself and your materials for the type of job you want. That means you really need to know who you are as a scholar and a teacher. A big part of that is situating your identity as a #medrhet scholar and teacher into the overall landscape. If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re doing from rhetoric and composition, TPC, or Comm studies with a rhetorical bent. That means you’re probably looking at jobs in those areas. For the purpose of the job market those are your primary areas (however you define yourself) and then #medrhet is a specialization (and then the area you study within it is a further away to define yourself).

For example, no one would dispute that I identify as a TPC scholar. I’m definitely a generalist in TPC because of my background and what I research, but I do have some areas where I have strengths such as my ability to teach any of the technology heavy courses (such as web design or information design or content management) and I know a lot of method/ologies. This latter point bridges TPC with who I am as a #medrhet scholar. I also intersect with my research in #medrhet that looks at the impact of technology on health communication and literacy. I usually don’t use myself as an example, but in this case, it’s apt because you should be able to see from my description how I would position myself in the job market.

See how specific that is and how I can then look at job ads to see where I may be a better fit than others. I need to match what the ads say to what type of job that I want. In the storify embedded below, Kristin Krondlik makes EXCELLENT points about figuring out how your work and interests can fit in with a  teaching school. In TPC, the majority of programs are at regional universities, and applying for those jobs is quite different from applying for an R1 research job. IF you don’t understand those differences, then reach out and ask someone. We have  a wide network of folks that work at those types of schools who would be happy to answer questions about their jobs and what it’s like to work there.

A big key to your job materials is to be sure to take time to show how your work and expertise can fit the school to which you are applying.  Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to customize a letter to every school, but you may want to consider writing custom letters to your top five or ten schools based on the other demands on your time during job market season. While your work is fabulous, job search committees want to see how it connects to their department and institution, that is, how you can make them better. Right now many universities, big and small, are emphasizing work around health and medicine. It’s important to try to understand some of this initiatives–particularly at the campus visit stage–and how you can contribute.

While the majority of job seekers will stick to typical jobs, the alt-ac scene or jobs in other locations are a bit more open to #medrhet scholars because of our diverse and truly interdisciplinary backgrounds. If this is more of your style, look at job listings within the university job portals or do a more non-anademic search and look at ads from other national organizations such as American Medical Writers, American Public Health Association, federal and state level jobs in health/medical related departments, and at organizations (such as large hospital or insurance systems) for jobs that may suit your strengths and interests.

No matter what type of job you’re looking for, work diligently on being able to

  • talk about what you do AND why it’s important in a way that any non-specialist will understand
  • highlight your skills and expertise that match the job ad
  • show how you can contribute in positive ways to the department and/or the institution
  • demonstrate your knowledge of the broad area to which you identify, as well as your #medrhet area

Scan through the storify for more details.

Use the summer to be working on your materials, and don’t be shy about reaching out for help with questions or for someone to read your materials. The #medrhet community is a thriving and more so, it is generous.



Voting is open CCCCs Med Rhet Standing Group Elections

Per our by-laws we’re set to elect an Associate Chair and Member-at-Large this year.

Those of you who identify as a scholar of the rhetoric of health and medicine and are also members of the CCCCs are eligible to vote. (We’re on the honor system here 🙂

As out going Associate Chair, one of my duties to run the elections and provide a slate of candidates that represent our membership. I am particularly proud of the diversity of institution types represented. I would be thrilled for any of the candidates to be elected and lead our Standing Group.

Good luck to all of the candidates! Now, members, go and vote!

Here is the link for the election: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D6X38RG (opens in new tab)

Voting is open for one week and will close on May 3 at 5:00 pm EDT.

If you have questions or concerns or encounter any problems voting, please email Lisa Meloncon,Associate Chair (for one more week 🙂


Submit!! Rhetoric of Health and Medicine As/Is

Deadline extended due to lots of questions and requests for extensions.  New due date for proposals is June 15, 2016

Please consider submitting to the following. We are especially interested in a wide variety of voices and innovative proposals. This is your chance to help shape the foundation and direction of the field!!

We look forward to seeing all the great ideas and proposals!!

The Rhetoric of Health and Medicine as/is: Theories and Concepts for an Emerging Field

Editors: Lisa Meloncon, Scott Graham, Jenell Johnson, John Lynch, and Cynthia Ryan

Descriptive Rationale for Volume

The rhetoric of health and medicine is a growing and vibrant discipline that has emerged out of the rhetoric of science (Meloncon & Frost, 2015; Scott et al, 2013) and incorporates scholars from a number of fields—most notably, communication, technical and professional communication, composition, and linguistics. Accordingly, the overarching goal of this volume is to identify the key concepts that ground the rhetoric of health and medicine, as a field of inquiry. In so doing, this volume will explore how scholars in the rhetoric of health and medicine use rhetoric in theoretical and practical ways to examine the discourses of health and medicine and how those discourses create meaning within a wide variety of scientific, technical, practical, and political sites.

The growing body of work (see Condit et al, 2012; Meloncon & Frost, 2015), however, lacks the critical apparatus necessary to help place it within a broader context that is accessible to a wide range of scholars within and outside of the field. That is, at present we have many exemplars of scholarship that do not have/lack clearly articulated field-wide theoretical and methodological foundations. The health of our discipline relies in part on scholars ability to identify and share these foundational underpinnings.

Thus, the central concepts of the volume will be presented in terms of rhetoric of health and medicine’s’ dual perspectives: both “as” and “is.” First the discipline can be seen as a theoretical construct that guides research and thinking in the field. Additionally, the concepts can be explored in the is stance as a way to define the boundaries of the field. Both orientations are necessary to any scholarly field. Both allow a diversity of approaches while also ensuring a common core. For example, let’s take the concept that is part of the field’s name, “rhetoric.” For many years, scholars in rhetorical studies and rhetoric and composition have argued that rhetoric is way of analyzing existing discourse as well as providing a framework for creating it. As provides us an entryway into thinking about different concepts as theoretical underpinnings. Is provides us an entryway into thinking about how theories can potentially be applied in practice. We definitely want to nudge and even push scholars in the rhetoric of health and medicine to appraise what it is that we do and examine what sets us apart from other related fields. This endeavor means taking a critical stance to determine what is at stake when we say that we are rhetoricians of health and medicine.

Call to Action

Starting with a series of terms participants at the Discourses of Health Medicine 2015 (www.medicalrhetoric.com/symposium2015) felt were vital for a conceptual understanding of the field, we challenge scholars to continue the participatory nature of this collection and propose innovative chapters that incorporate the following terms.

Consent Advocacy
Ethics Health citizenship
Professionalism Environment
Global Risk (comm)
Methods Publics
Performance Invention
Materiality Circulation/delivery
Ontology Discourse
Agency Narrative
Lived experience Decision-making
Online STS
Technology Disability studies
Visual Rhetoric of science
Genre Medical and health humanities

We strongly encourage collaboration between scholars from across institutions and more importantly, across fields and disciplines. Your chapter proposal should bring two or more of the terms/concepts into conversation and speak directly to the as/is theme. You are welcome to propose new terms or concepts in addition to these.

We also encourage cluster proposals. That is, if a group of scholars believes that particular chapters might work together nicely, you can propose them as a cluster. Think of this option as similar to proposing a panel at a conference or a section in a book.

We are leaving this call more open than most because we do want the overall volume to be shaped by the contributions. In other words, we truly are embracing participation and innovation.

A university press has invited a full proposal on this project and once proposals are received and acceptance decisions made, we will be forwarding a full prospectus to them.

If you want to discuss your idea or if you have questions, please contact Lisa Meloncon@tek-ritr.com or Scott grahams@uwm.edu


Chapter proposals should be from 750-1000 words (give or take and excluding citations). Include a cover page with all of the authors’ contact information, a list of the terms your chapter (or cluster of chapters) addresses, and a short c.v. for each author.

Submit proposals as PDF or Word files to rohm_asis@medicalrhetoric.com

Proposals due: June 15, 2016 UPDATED

Proposal decision: June 30, 2016 (or soon thereafter 🙂

Final chapters of 6000-7000 words: December 30, 2016



CCCC 2017 Standing Group Proposals

It’s time to submit proposals for CCCC 2017 Medical Rhetoric Standing Group Panel. See the CFP below!!


The field of the rhetoric of health and medicine (RHM) has come a long way since Judy Segal described it as a “subfield” (2005, p. 312). With new publication opportunities and a burgeoning cadre of graduate students studying RHM, the 2017 Medical Rhetoric Roundtable offers an opportunity to consider and discuss how to sustain this growth and cultivate new opportunities.

Participants could consider the following questions:

  • How do we sustain ourselves, both individually and collectively,
  • How do we cultivate collaborative relationships?
  • What labor is involved in cultivating and sustaining our own research and the field?
  • How do we cultivate new voices in scholarship, prepare future faculty and future organizational leaders?
  • How do we develop and sustain public voices for our scholarship?
  • How do we create broader understanding and appreciation of our disciplinary landscape?
  • How do we sustain and enrich our members in their varied interests throughout their careers?

We are taking the roundtable format seriously in that we will be using a modified ignite format (5 minutes) where participants will provide an overview of their primary research and then pose a question for the audience. The roundtable will be designed to be interactive with short presentations to fuel discussions. Following these, attendees will break into small groups to discuss the questions/topics presented.

Please submit 250-word proposals to lora.arduser@uc.edu by April 28, 2016.

Professors, Let’s Go (and Get Credit for Going) Public

4 April 16 by Erin Trauth

Before entering academia, I worked as a full-time journalist, writing features and news for a daily paper. Now, though my career focus has changed since choosing the path of an academic, my interest in journalistic work has not waned. While pursuing my master’s and Ph.D. degrees and holding various teaching and administrative posts, I have kept my freelance journalism work going, posting to various websites related to food labeling, nutrition, and health communication – all extensions of my academic work in technical communication and rhetoric. This past and present journalistic work, in terms of public readership and reader response, has spoiled me in a major way.

Some of these posts have been read by tens of thousands of people, and, on some, I receive reader comments and questions so frequently that I often can’t keep up with my responses. One article on health communication, for example, was shared almost 27,000 times and received nearly 300 comments and questions. When such exposure happens, I like to think that I have made some sort of impact sharing my work in such a public way – but this isn’t always the case with my academic writing.

Meanwhile, in academia, we most often aim to publish our research in peer-reviewed journals. While peer-reviewed publications are of value and certainly create meaningful conversation in the humanities, how much does this discussion extend to the general public or to help shape public policy? An April 2015 article by Asit K. Biswas, a visiting professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, and Julian Kirchherr, a doctoral researcher at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, claim in “Prof, no one is reading you,” that we, as academics, sometimes do not make much of a public impact with our academic work: “Many of the world’s most talented thinkers may be university professors, but sadly most of them are not shaping today’s public debates or influencing policies.”

There are of course exceptions – I would not downplay recent endeavors by so many scholars to publicize our work, especially with efforts to publicize academic work on social media and in collaborations with field practitioners. However, while some individuals may extend their reach outside of the academic vacuum, Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker’s archive editor and a former academic, writes, we still have to turn most of our attention back to continually pleasing a relatively small group of people: “Increasingly, to build a successful academic career you must serially impress very small groups of people (departmental colleagues, journal and book editors, tenure committees).” And the numbers on the readership of peer-reviewed journals do make a startling point. As Biswas and Kirchherr explain, “Up to 1.5 million peer-reviewed articles are published annually. However, many are ignored even within scientific communities – 82 percent of articles published in humanities are not even cited once.” By some estimates, the authors posit, peer-reviewed journal publications are read by no more than 10 people.

Despite these dismal numbers, it is well known in our field that these peer-reviewed publications are still essential for tenure and promotion in most university posts. So, while churning out pieces for public consumption may be the most efficient way to share our research in a public light, we do have to spend six months to a year focusing on an article or perhaps even longer on a book project to get and keep our jobs. Rothman writes: “Academics may write for large audiences on their blogs or as journalists. But when it comes to their academic writing, and to the research that underpins it—to the main activities, in other words, of academic life—they have no choice but to aim for very small targets. Writing a first book, you may have in mind particular professors on a tenure committee; miss that mark and you may not have a job.” And, after the fact, re-purposing our academic writing for public spaces takes time and effort. So, then: what’s an academic with only so many hours in the day to do?

Some say it’s the availability of academic journals themselves that should change: “Most journals are difficult to access and prohibitively expensive for anyone outside of academia,” write Biswas and Kierchherr. Further, Nicholas Kristof writes in The New York Times that academic “goobledygook” is often “hidden in obscure journals” – meaning the important work we are doing in many areas of rhetoric might be seen as just that. The open-access journal movement would seem an easy answer to some of these issues, but, even still, the nature of the articles themselves, Biswas and Kierchherr claim, would still make the use of such work prohibitive for the general public: “…the incomprehensible jargon and the sheer volume and lengths of papers (often unnecessary!) would still prevent practitioners (including journalists) from reading and understanding them.”

So, for change in this realm to happen, we must first consider how and where we publish our work. If we truly want to make an impact beyond our university walls, we must consider revising our academic work to fit more popular media formats – considering length, tone, and diction – and reach out to publish in popular media from time to time. Kristof exclaims: “professors, don’t cloister yourselves like medieval monks – we need you!” The journalist in me wholeheartedly agrees.

But then again, what good will our time spent writing for public contexts and popular media for us as scholars in need of a paying job? This charge doesn’t seem an easy one to meet. Many still may feel that public commentary simply is not worthwhile or perhaps will even penalize it. Will McCants, of the Brookings Institute, writes in The New York Times, “Many academics frown on public pontificating as a frivolous distraction from real research. This attitude affects tenure decisions. If the sine qua non for academic success is peer-review publications, then academics who ‘waste their time’ writing for the masses will be penalized.” In 2014, the International Studies Association even put forth a proposal that would bar its journal editors from blogging. After much protest, the proposal was tabled, but the point is that someone in that association thought this might be a plausible idea.

Is it time, then, that we further problematize what the university values and what counts for tenure and promotion? In 2016, why shouldn’t a popular media piece which engages the public in academic research have some weight toward these university goals? As Briwas and Kiercherr posit, “It may be about time to re-assess scholars’ performance. For tenure and promotion considerations, their impact on policy formulation and public debates should also be assessed.”

Why, in addition to impressing small groups of people, isn’t our work on popular media sources, social media, professional blogs, and other public spaces part of the package considered on a more frequent basis? While we may informally acknowledge these efforts, is it time that such public writing work is formally and officially considered, too?

While some may scoff at the idea of popular media and its place in our academic publication records, we should also consider the ability for such work to generate public conversation and demonstrate practical relevance of our research work to an outside audience. While “high impact” journals are frequently touted for their ability to make an impact, I ask that we consider what this impact really means. How often will we have the ability to reach the masses with our important findings if we aim only to publish in academic journals? What if we could pen a version of such work for public space– and then having this commentary actually count for our vitas? Can we negotiate a space in which our work in the public realm can be counted as something more than just a byline?

Our work matters, and the world needs our voices. It’s time that the solid work we do to engage with those outside of our academic spaces counts for a bit more, too.

Strategies for Public Work

by: Lisa Meloncon

As some in the community are about to get together at the ATTW Conference and the CCCC conference, the Medical Rhetoric Standing Group will convene for its first meeting since the move from a special interest group to a standing group. Thus, we had to come up with a discussion topic for the evening’s business meeting.

We decided to talk about different strategies to make our work more public. Now, public can mean all sorts of things because each of us has different strengths and different goals for our careers. My public may not be your public and that’s ok. Public can be as simple as trying to write a blog post about your article or it can be volunteering at a local health clinic to re-write some of their handouts or informational materials. There’s also the route of writing more popular press pieces (see the work of Cynthia Ryan) or it can be pushing your research into more community-based or participatory research where part of the aims is helping the community.

So the discussion part of our meeting will be talking through some of these examples, and hopefully, we’ll have some tips on getting started to share in our resources section when we’re done.

If you’ll be going to Houston, join us Thursday, April, 7, 2016 @ 6:30 in GRB, Room 351 B, Level (which is in the convention center).

Our agenda will be
— Announcements about Standing Group Elections.
Since we are a CCCC Standing Group, we have to hold elections. Two position on the executive committee are up for election. Consider nomination yourself or someone else. More details will be discussed at the meeting.
— General Announcements (Standing Group Panel, publication opportunities, etc.)
— Topic for Discussion
Strategies for public work:dissemination, connections, and crossing boundaries
Several members will describe their approaches and then we will have an open discussion
— Networking
The last 10-15 minutes will be reserved to meet folks, to talk about possible panels for next year, to plan meet-ups for RSA, or in general just to get to know each other better

If you have questions or want to add something to the agenda, just email Lisa.

Sessions at the Cs

Session Title Schedule
A.05 Studying Action in Medicine through Surrogates, Simulations, and Other Shadow Thursday 4/7 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM in Hilton, Room 329, Level Three
B.10 Labeling, Naming, and Visualizing Health and Illness: How Food Labels, FDA Reports, and Ebola Charts Can Help Teach Rhetorical Analysis Thursday 4/7 12:15 PM – 1:30 PM in Hilton, Room 330, Level Three
B.24 Medical Rhetoric and Scientific Communication Thursday 4/7 12:15 PM – 1:30 PM in Hilton, Room 344B, Level Three
D.06 Beyond the Helping or Hurting Binary: Examining Healthcare Rhetorics and Contexts Thursday 4/7 3:15 PM – 4:30 PM in Hilton, Room 346A, Level Three
F.02 Rhetorics of Health and Medicine: A Roundtable Examining the Breadth and future actions of an Emerging Sub-Field Friday 4/8 8:00 AM – 9:15 AM in GRB, Room 351B, Level Three
F.31 Challenging the Rhetoric of Non-Neurotypicality: Documents, Stories, Memories


Friday 4/8 8:00 AM – 9:15 AM in GRB, Room 351A, Level Three
H.31 “Stories That Change You”: Birth Stories as Rhetorical Action Friday 4/8 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM in GRB, Room 351B, Level Three
POSTER Keep Mad and Tumblr on: Neurodivergent Identity and Autistic Self-Advocacy in Social Media Based Counterpublics Thursday 4/7 3:00 PM – 4:15 PM in Hilton, Ballroom of the Americas Prefunction, Level Two





Public-ness and the CDC

13 March 2016 by Lisa Meloncon

One of my goals for 2016 was to blog more. While I’ve made progress on that front in a other places, I haven’t managed to work this blog into the regular rotation, but I’m desperately trying to find a way how. One of those ways was to get folks to write some things for it. And I do have a long overdue post from Erin Trauth (thank you, Erin) that I will post shortly, which is also related to the idea of the public.

In this case, “public” is one of our government agencies releasing information through a widespread social media campaign, and that information was completely and totally offensive among so many other things. Let’s call it a case of public communication gone entirely wrong.

Here’s the original for point of reference. Clicking on the image will open the fill size in a new window.


I had seen the original infographic on twitter, and it annoyed me. It was at that moment I did wish I had the time and energy to make some sort of rebuttal. But then I do remember simply shaking my head and thinking, “well, that’s just the CDC.” Needless to say they aren’t my favorite government agency and much of it has to do with the way they approach health communication. Add to that I teach on information design course where one of the main projects is an infographic. Needless to say, I’ll be using this case for a long time to come. 🙂

Anyway, no sooner had I started to move on, but a counter parody aimed at men popped up on Twitter. I loved it. And in the case of small worlds,  the fabulous Ashley Patriarca tweeted it out and mentioned that she went to high school with the creator of it. Ashley connected Chris and me and he was so kind and generous to answer a few questions about it.

Here’s his version (reposted here with his direct permission). Clicking on the image will open the fill size in a new window.


What follows is an email “interview” I did with Chris. I sent Chris just a few questions and asking him if I could post his responses here along with his creation.

All of this is speaks directly to the value of our field of the rhetoric of health and medicine. It took a look at language and purpose and audience and design and then spun it all on its head with a great, and super smart, critique. Enjoy Chris’ responses.

What made you take the time and energy to do this? 

Honestly, it didn’t take that much time and energy. Just a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon. At least, it didn’t seem like some huge effort, so much as a fun way to play around in Adobe for a little while.

I’d been rolling the idea around for a couple of days, since the CDC issued its drinking warning for women. There was a lot of commentary on my online news streams — Facebook, news sites, etc. — about how ridiculous it was for a government organization to essentially be telling women that drinking was the reason they were getting pregnant unintentionally (even though, apparently, drinking also makes it harder to get pregnant).

It’s just been really striking to me over the past couple of years how much more you’re hearing about the issue of double-standards between men and women on issues such as this. But even more striking, and promising, is how many more people are acknowledging that it’s the case, actually listening to women (and male allies), and responding with attempts at positive change.

People you’d never have directly tied to any sort of feminist movement (and I’d probably be included in that, to be fair) are now saying, doing, and promoting things that even a few years ago would have been considered pretty radical. So, to me, that’s a good thing.

At any rate, after reading a few articles on the original CDC guidance and talking about it with my girlfriend Emily, we both felt so frustrated that, once again, this infographic was missing the point …

Instead of “women shouldn’t drink because men can do bad things to them,” it should be “people shouldn’t do bad things to other people.” Or even on the topic of men and alcohol, why not “men shouldn’t drink because they’ll do bad things to other people”? Place the blame where it belongs, and don’t put the impetus on women to limit how they want to live because of others’ acts.

And while this infographic is a parody, I noticed after I made it that if you read it out of context, it’s really not funny at all. Every point on there is pretty straightforward, valid advice that needs to be addressed to a lot of men in our society … The vast majority of physically violent acts are carried out by men, and it’s often sparked or exacerbated by alcohol(ism).

So why isn’t anyone spending their time and effort (and money) on stopping that? Maybe it’s not the CDC’s job, but you know, it’s probably also not really their job to take an infographic about the dangers of alcohol for pregnant women and turn it into a moral crusade against all those whiskey-chugging floozies getting themselves raped and probably having to get a drive-through abortion because they’re so irresponsible.

It’s not really a groundbreaking idea, but the more we talk about it, the more normal that viewpoint becomes, the more likely things are to change in a broader sense, and maybe we’ll start holding perpetrators accountable instead of victims, especially when it comes to violence against women in our society.

Why did you feel it was important to do?

I probably answered most of this one in the question above. Ha. But I guess to cover the bases … It wasn’t some sense of righteous anger so much as an idea that seemed to fit in with my skill set (communications and design) and would appropriately address the absurdity of the CDC telling women not to drink.

Also, at some point I got this image in my head of a cartoon guy holding a cartoon knife, and it made me laugh, so I felt at that point like I had to at least give it a whirl.

Anything else you’d like to share about its creation and circulation?

Like I said, it just took a couple of hours in InDesign and Illustrator. Nothing too crazy. I suppose I should give credit to the CDC for not being extremely complex graphic designers … The format itself was pretty easy to re-create, then I just spent most the time figuring out what I actually wanted it to say.

Em and I went back and forth a little over what the parallel version for men really was. I guess men don’t get violent the way women get pregnant, but to me, it still seemed like the most accurate reflection of what the original CDC guidance was about at its heart: that women are bringing bad stuff on themselves by drinking.

After I made it, I shared it on Facebook and Twitter. A few friends started sharing it and retweeting it, as well. Then I sent it over to a friend of mine, Tim Donnelly, who runs the Brooklyn-centric community blog Brokelyn, and he posted it there with some commentary, which really caught some eyes.

We all made a few jokes about going “viral.” Get it? CDC? Viral? Sorry. Anyway, a fair number of people have seen it and talked about it, and mostly I’m just glad they seem to dig it. I hope it will help keep the momentum going on a conversation that has picked up steam in recent years, and hopefully will continue to grow in a positive direction.

You are not alone.

posted by Lisa Meloncon

As some of you know, I’m part of the steering committee of Women in Technical Communication, which is a group dedicated to doing mentoring better. (And hey, we just won an award.) We’ve found in our research that existing models of mentoring don’t really work and a big part of the reason for that is because of existing power structures. I won’t go down the power road (cause if you’re interested you can read our proceedings paper), but I will say that working with Women in Tech Comm has made me realize the real need for better ways to mentor, better ways to help one another live more balanced and happy lives.

Speaking of lives, It’s not unusual for parts to intersect, which is why I’m writing about the work we’ve done around mentoring. While our efforts have focused on women in technical and professional communication, I have no doubt the need exists across all of higher education for women and men alike. That’s why I’m writing today.

I’ve been working on getting the details worked out for the 2015 Symposium and one of things I’m looking forward to is being able to discuss my work with other scholars who do work similar to mine. One area where many grad students and faculty encounter problems is when they are the only person at their institution that does “X.” That makes for a lonely existence. But, the good thing is if you work in the area of the rhetorics of health and medicine you are never the only person.

This is the perfect time for a reminder. Let me say this directly and clearly. Unless you reach out, no one will know that you’re struggling or if you need help.

There’s a growing community of people who are excited about this work and enjoy talking about it from a research, teaching, or service perspective. Our ranks run the spectrum from full professors to graduate students at all types of institutions.

The most remarkable thing about many of the groups I’m involved with is the overwhelming generosity of many people in those groups. When someone says to you, that she would be happy to talk or would be glad to read something, she really means it.

We really, really do.

Let’s face it. We’re all busy. There are days when the feeling that you can and will never get everything done feels like a ton of bricks on your shoulders. But I feel confident in speaking for some of my colleagues, we can generally make the time to help.  And if for some reason, your request has hit at the most inopportune time,  then most folks will tell you that and refer you to someone who can help. That’s how a participatory mentoring model works.

When you find you need some help, think through what it is that you most need. Do you need someone to bounce ideas off of? Have you hit a spot and you need to talk through it? Do you have an intro that is driving you crazy? Do you have a piece that has multiple ideas and you can’t figure out how to focus it? It’s important to have a sense of what it is you need before you send that initial email. This way both you and the person you’re asking know what’s expected. BTW, I so get it, though, that sometimes you don’t know exactly what the issue is. And that’s ok, too. But at least you’ve thought through it enough to explain that 😉

One you have an idea of what you need, reach out. If you’re not certain who to contact, by all means send me an email and I’ll help you or find someone much better that can! So don’t let your own fears hold you back.

You are never alone in this job. Welcome, you are part of a community.


Define medical rhetoric?!?

posted by Lisa Meloncon

Over on twCHEUbuwUAAEB6TEitter, the discussion got started on defining medical rhetoric. I liked this idea a lot because I know that under the big tent of rhetoric we approach research from different perspectives.

Heifferon and Brown (2008) argued in their book  for the use of health: “we used health care to bring in all of the health professions, the health professionals and the many attendant rhetorical situations available under this moniker. We also were cognizant of a more positive and constructive spin on the term: move from a narrowly mapped medicine…to deconstruct but also to positively reconstruct or build for the first time an alternative discursive practice…ones that communicate more effectively than the ones presently in use by health care providers” (p.4).

I can still hear Gary Kreps comment in my head from the 2013 Symposium when were discussing what we should call ourselves. He argued passionately that we did not need to include medicine because those areas are already widely covered.

I can appreciate this orientation and the need to emphasize a broader and more inclusive paradigm for research by focusing on health, which is decidedly more patient centered and probably something most folks in the area would advocate.

I have to wonder, however, whether omitting medicine actually excludes a large audience that in theory we would love for our research to reach, that is, the medical practitioners, policy experts, those in public health, and the many working professionals who set policy and create health education materials for thousands of patients. What many of the external stakeholders have in common is the fact that have little to no awareness of our work, and I’ll boldly state it—our work can enormous positive impact and ultimately improve patient outcomes.

This is why I was so happy to see this attempt on twitter to define medical rhetoric or to define the more broad term rhetorics of health and medicine. This latter term is starting to be used more often—even with hesitancy by those that may still have problems with it, and I’m one of those (more on that later)—because it was this emerging field’s first attempt at definition by at least settling on a name and a broad purpose. Blake Scott, Judy Segal, and Lisa Keränen (2013) “advocate[ed] that scholars adopt the term rhetoric or health and medicine to signal a broad array of health publics, their nomoi, and their discursive practices, some of which only partially intersect with medical institutions….Expanding our purview to include the broader set of health texts, artifacts, genres, and practices allows rhetorical scholars interested in medicine and health to address more fully the constellation of symbolic and material rhetorics that influence daily life and public meanings, and practice” (para. 2).

I was also reminded of Kelly Happe’s work and her insistence that “discourse is where institutional practices, cultural norms, and dominate beliefs converge. Researchers are embodied persons who must draw not only from an agreed on and disciplinary-specific lexicon, but also from tropes, metaphors, narratives, and arguments that circulate outside of the scientific context, but to which they are in no way immune….A rhetorical perspective attends not only to shared beliefs across multiple discourses but also to the inner workings of the texts that form them. (pp.14-15)

Here’s what our twitter conversation generated. Huge props to Lori Beth De Hertogh for curating the responses into a storify. (and yeah, I know I can embed that storify here but then this post would be scarily longer than it is 🙂

It’s true that I’ve shied away from positing my own definition. I’m not quite there yet because I’m one of those people who is still trying to accept the “rhetorics of health and medicine” moniker as one that has room for me and what that room may look like. It’s not that I am opposed to the term. Actually, I like it a lot, and have argued recently (CDQ intro forthcoming) that it is one our emerging field should use. I am also a rhetorician, who has long used (depending on the situation) John Poulakos’s definition: “Rhetoric is the art which seeks to capture in opportune moments that which is appropriate and attempts to suggest that which is possible. Very briefly, this undertaking which concerns itself with the how, the when, and the what of expression and understands the why of purpose.”(p. 26).

I am drawn to the possibility in Poulakos’ definition, and it is the possibility of the rhetorical work that we do in health and medicine and what the possibility could afford the practice and purpose of health and medicine that is exciting and daunting and important.

Possibility opens up many avenues for the work of rhetoricians of health and medicine one of which is theory. For example, I have long shied away from theory because I have always seen myself as more practical, more applied. But what I have learned over the last several years is that theory is a vital part of the work that we do. And in thinking of theory I can’t escape conversations with and the work of Blake Scott and Karen Kopelson. Karen so eloquently argued at the 2013 symposium that we need theory and we can’t and shouldn’t be all practice. That resonated and still does. Theory provides us a way to see the same thing differently. And one of the contributions our emerging field can make is a theoretical one where our research provides scholars in rhetoric new ways to use and enact theory in their own work. In this way we offer the broader rhetorical community a version of sustainable scholarship, which is what Johanna Hartelius (2009) called for in her review of work in this area.

Rhetorical possibility could be a powerful construct and one that could offer the emerging field a way to provide a capacious umbrella for the different approaches and methods and methodologies to this interrogation of the discourses of health and medicine.

One of the reasons for defining anything is to give it a set of parameters, to give it a shape, and just as importantly, to be able to tell other people what it is and why it matters. As Judy Segal (2009) aptly points out, “Projects in rhetoric of health and medicine, in general, aim to be useful. Their usefulness often lies in their ability to pose questions that are prior to the questions typically posed by health researchers” (p. 228). What we do matters, and it can be useful. But for us to able to better engage with the public about the work that we do, this idea of defining it becomes paramount.

Definitions are hard. Naming is hard. But we do have a start. Part of the work as we move toward defining and naming is the necessity to engage with existing definitions, even if scholars haven’t labeled their work in that way they have engaged in trying to limit or identify boundaries. Part of this work, too, is finding a set of key terms that need to be considered from multiple angles to continue to build our theories. For me those terms include: people, experiences, technology, contexts/situations/networks/ecologies/articulation/[whatever term symbolizes a larger set of practices], rhetoric or discourses, power [and can also include other critical terms like politics, gender, race, class, etc.], and some attention to publics (however that is being defined). Other useful terms for exploration of definitions and locations are ethics, theory, embodiment, methods, place, space, performance, agency, techne, poiesis, dialogue, and visual.

This post went much longer than intended and it’s definitely more exploratory than any sort of cogent argument about definitions. Rather, it’s something to encourage thinking about definitions and naming within the emerging field and to encourage moving this and related discussions forward within our social media and hallway conversations and more importantly, in our scholarship.


Happe, K. (2013). The material gene: gender, race, and heredity after the Human Genome Project. NY: New York University Press.

Heifferon, B., & Brown, S. C. (Eds.). (2008). Rhetoric of healthcare: Essays toward a new disciplinary inquiry. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

John Poulakos, i. r., eds. John Louis Lucaites, Celeste Michelle Condit and Sally Caudill, 25-34 (New York: Guilford Press, 1999), 26. (1999). Toward a Sophistic Definition of Rhetoric,. In J. L. Lucaites, C. Condit & S. Caudill (Eds.), Contemporary Rhetorical Theory: A Reader (pp. 25-34). New York: Guilford Press.

Scott, J. B., Segal, J. Z., & Keranen, L. (2013). The Rhetorics of Health and Medicine: Inventional Possibilities for Scholarship and Engaged Practice. Poroi, 9(1), Article 17.

Segal, J. Z. (2009). Rhetoric of health and medicine. In A. Lunsford, R. Eberly & K. Wiliamson (Eds.), The sage handbook of rhetorical studies (pp. 227-246). Los Angeles: Sage.