The Edwina L. Sanders Award for Outstanding Work on the Rhetoric of Health Inequities
RHM scholars are committed to justice in the ever-widening spheres of health and medicine, a pervasiveness of ethics that John A. Lynch (2020) suggests is inseparable from the work we do. Since our flagship journal Rhetoric of Health & Medicine launched in 2018, our community has embraced conversations addressing inequities through multidisciplinary theoretical and methodological approaches that influence both pedagogy (Adams, 2022; Harris, 2021) and research (Flores, 2022; Harper, 2020; Kuehl et al., 2020; Novotny et al., 2020; Swacha, 2022).
Through our examination of discourses that marginalize rather than empower (Hite & Carter, 2019; Kearney, 2020; Lozon, 2022) and our efforts to engage with diverse populations (Ryan, 2018; Skinner and Franz, 2018), we demonstrate our commitment to what RHM founding editors J. Blake Scott and Lisa Melonçon (2019) call an “inclusive dwelling place” (iv) that is open to “facilitat[ing] more expansive versions of who we are and what we value” (v).
The editing team of RHM is pleased to announce a new annual award. This award will be given to the author(s) of original work published in a single volume of RHM that contributes to pathways that could redress health inequities, defined broadly. This award is sponsored by Cynthia Ryan in memory and honor of her beloved friend and co-breast cancer survivor, Edwina L. Sanders.
Edwina L. Sanders, for whom this award is named, was born in 1964 in Birmingham, Alabama, during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. From the very beginning of her life, Edwina found herself immersed in the worst of circumstances. Her parents were plagued by alcoholism, and the family dwelled in substandard housing lacking electricity and running water. Edwina and her siblings stole and begged for food from neighbors when the family had nothing left to eat. She was educated through the tenth grade in underfunded city schools, segregated long after the passing of integration laws in Alabama in 1963. In childhood and adulthood, Edwina lived in unsafe neighborhoods and was homeless by the time she was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in 2009. Despite the horrors Edwina experienced throughout her life, including distrust of institutionalized medicine, she hesitantly placed her trust in the hands of healthcare workers at Cooper Green, Jefferson County’s Public Hospital, founded in 1972. Ironically, the facility to which Edwina turned to for help suffered its own challenges with garnering sufficient funding to treat indigent patients. In 2020, the University of Alabama at Birmingham assumed responsibility for the financially-struggling Cooper Green. Since then, the initial structure has been demolished to make way for a new and improved facility.
The immense challenges Edwina faced before and after she entered the healthcare system for breast cancer care ensured that whatever care she received wouldn’t be enough to create a better, healthier life. The World Health Organization (n.d.) defines “social determinants of health” (SDOH) as the “non-medical factors” including “the conditions into which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of everyday life” that influence both risk for and mortality from a host of diseases. By the time Edwina died in her sleep at the age of 57, she had struggled with numerous comorbidities in addition to breast cancer: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, peripheral artery disease, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and cholesterol. SDOH, including lack of access to healthy food or a safe place to exercise, an absence of transportation to/from work, and a climate of racism and oppression, taken together, interfered with Edwina’s ability to attain physical and mental well-being.
Edwina’s story is not unique, not in 1964 in Birmingham and not today in cities and rural areas around the world. Health inequities connected to and exacerbated by circumstances beyond a specific illness or health issue persist (Hensley Owens & Molloy, 2022).
The recipient of The Edwina L. Sanders Award for Outstanding Work in the Rhetoric of Health Inequities will be selected by a committee including the award sponsor along with editors and board members of RHM. Awardees will receive a monetary award and a plaque celebrating their contribution to the field.
Adams, H. (2022). Teaching health justice: Centering reproduction. Rhetoric of Health &
Medicine, 4(4), 475–496.
Flores, W. A. (2022). Toward a virulent community literacy: Constellating the science, technology, and medicine of queer sexual health (Publication No. 29065235) [Doctoral dissertation, Michigan State University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
Harper, K. C. (2020). The ethos of Black motherhood in America: Only white women get pregnant. Lexington Books.
Harris, D. (2021). Viruses don’t discriminate, but people do: Teaching writing for health
professionals in the context of Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter. Rhetoric of Health &
Medicine, 4(4). Special section.
Hensley Owens, K. & Molloy, C. (2022). Looking for a mind [and body and heart] at work. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 5(3), 241–249.
Hite, A., & Carter, A. (2019). Examining assumptions in science-based policy: Critical health
communication, stasis theory, and public health nutrition guidance. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 2(2), 147–175.
Kearney, C. (2020). Mass shootings and mental health: A historical perspective on the “mental
illness as motive” narrative. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 3(1), 34–62.
Kuehl, R. A., Anderson, J., Drury, S. A. M., Holman, A., Hunt, C., & Leighter, J. L. (2020). Creating
a multidisciplinary dialogue about community-based participatory research partnerships of health and medicine. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 3(1), 93–132.
Lozon, E. (2022). The dialectic of food swamps and clean food: Ecological interventions for disrupting individual frames of food choice. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 4(2), 218–245.
Lynch, J. A. (2020). The ethics of rhetoric and the rhetoric of ethics: Refusing the call to
codification. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 3(3), 249–257.
Novotny, M., De Hertogh, L. B., & Frost, E. A. (2020). Rhetorics of reproductive justice in public and civic contexts. Reflections, 20(2), 7-14.
Scott, J. B., & Melonçon, L. (2019). Caring for diversity and inclusion. Rhetoric of Health &
Medicine, 2(3), iii–xi.
Ryan, C. (2018). The Alabama Project: Representing the complexity of cancer survivorship in
words and images. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 1(3–4), 372–395.
Scott, J. B., & Melonçon, L. (2019). Caring for diversity and inclusion. RHM, 2(3), iii–xi.
Skinner, D., & Franz, B. (2018). From patients to populations: Rhetorical considerations for a
post-compliance medicine. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 1(3–4), 239–268.
Swacha, K. Y. (2022). “I could probably live to be 100”: An embodied approach to action-oriented research with vulnerable populations. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 5(3), 335–365.
World Health Organization. (n.d.). Social determinants of health. https://www.who.int/health-topics/social-determinants-of-health#tab=tab_1
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