How did this Symposium Come About?

short story by: Lisa Meloncon

As the story goes, at a meeting of the Medical Rhetoric SIG in 2011, the discussion circled around to the possibility of bringing scholars who do rhetorical-type work in health and medicine together at their own event. Sort of foolishly, I offered, or was elected, (I’m still not sure), to look into the possibility of hosting it. In 2012 at the Medical Rhetoric SIG and at RSA during the 2012 ARST Preconference, momentum and excitement seemed to indicate that, yes, this was a good idea.

So I picked up the gauntlet and in the fall of 2012, I started to find ways to fund it. The moment I had confirmed grant dollars, I contacted Lisa Keranen and Amy Koerber because of their energy and enthusiasm and because Lisa had published a book in this area and Amy’s was forthcoming. Their willingness to attend started the ball rolling and invitations for other featured speakers were extended to Blake Scott, Celeste Condit, Teri Thompson, and Barbara Heifferon.  All of these folks have been instrumental in “defining” and founding this emerging field (that we’re loosely calling the rhetoric of health and medicine). From there it was just a process of extending invitations to folks who had identified as scholars in this area. We tried hard to keep the balance between Communication and English studies (technical and professional communication, linguistics, composition) even and while it wasn’t a perfect split, we did have a diverse group of voices.

To this day, I am grateful to the featured speakers and all those who attended the first symposium. Their thoughtfulness in facilitating and participating in conversations helped to crystallize some of major goals and aims, and it confirmed that we are a community of scholars. More so, attendees were able to meet and talk to others who were just like them.

That’s how it got started? This version is a result of demand. Many people inquiring about the “next symposium” so here we again!

 Why Symposium?

When we first had this idea, we repeatedly heard the suggestion to not have a traditional conference.  While there is nothing wrong with the traditional conference, we understood that people really wanted to have the opportunity to talk with each other and discuss pressing issues around health and medical discourse.

We started thinking about other terms beyond conference.  We landed on symposium because of the obvious reason; it means to get together to talk about a particular topic.  But It also means–dating back to ancient Greece–a drinking party or convivial discussion.  We’re trying to find the spot right in the middle where we can talk about a particular topic and have fun while we do it!

We also felt that a symposium would open up a space for us to discuss ways we could take risks and develop new ideas.  Nothing spurs innovation like getting together a whole lot of like minded folks, and the current climate around health and healthcare requires innovative thinking and research.

To that end, the format of the symposium will be focused on discussions and talking with one another.