Health Comm @ NCA

The 96th National Communications Association Conference is just around the corner (Nov. 14-17 in San Francisco)! I’ll be presenting with a couple of different divisions including Health Communication. This post is just a teaser. If the paper looks interesting to you, I encourage you to drop by my Scholar-to-Scholar session and find out more. (Scholar-to-Scholar is NCA’s euphemism for a Poster Presentation.) Check it out, stop by, and/or let me know what you think:

Interdisciplinary Communication in Pain Medicine: The Case-Study as Integrative Exigency

Scholar to Scholar Presents: Bridging Organizational, Public Relations, and Health Communication Practices

Tue, Nov 16 – 12:00pm – 1:30pm, Building/Room: Hilton San Francisco / Yosemite Foyer

The increasing proliferation and isolation of medical subspecialties has come with an interesting, though perhaps not unexpected, side-effect: the demand for interdisciplinary collaboration. Most National Institutes of Health and Center for Disease Control research grants now either require or state an explicit preference for interdisciplinarity. However, as is well known to communications scholars, interdisciplinary dialogue is not always easy. Indeed, in some cases it may be nearly impossible. For some time now rhetoricians of science have been exploring the very possibility of interdisciplinary communication under the rubric of incommensurability studies (Ceccarelli, 2006; Harris, 2005; Prelli, 2005; Herndl and Wilson, 2007). This research has suggested that interdisciplinary communication is generally possible in environments wherein different disciplinary stakeholders share “integrative exigencies” (Herndl and Wilson)—i.e. common commitments to practical goals or ethical values. Certainly funding requirements constitute an integrative exigency, as do the ethical commitments that arise from the Hippocratic Oath. Indeed, these shared material and ethical exigencies make medicine an ideal forum for interdisciplinarity collaboration and communication.

However, the possibility of such interdisciplinary communication is not the same thing as successful interdisciplinary dialogue. This paper presents the results of a pilot study which investigates what genres of continuing medical education (CME) are most effective in fostering interdisciplinarity. In so doing, it investigates the discourse of a multidisciplinary pain management educational organization—the Midwest Pain Group (MPG). [MPG and all subject names are pseudonyms.] Pain is a ubiquitous part of the human condition. Whether patients are afflicted with rheumatologic disorders, neurological diseases, or traumatic injuries, they can suffer considerable pain. Subsequently, pain management is both an area of inquiry and a sphere of clinical practice that requires interdisciplinary communication. Recognizing this integrative exigency, members from over twenty different disciplines and subspecialties founded the MPG in order to share scientific and treatment insights across the disciplines. However, the MPG’s efforts are not always successful. Some CME programs foster greater interdisciplinary engagement than others. In the sections that follow, I present the results of my inquiry into the MPG. Using a combination of ethnographic observations, participant interviews, and discourse analysis, I argue that CME presentations with a significant case-study component are more effective that those that focus on scientific research in fostering interdisciplinary dialogue. After a brief discussion of data collection, I will interrogate the case of the MPG first by exploring the integrative exigencies that foster their interdisciplinary discourse. Then I will investigate the different CME genres and the extent to which each genre succeeded in provoking dialogue.

Download Entire Paper (.pdf)