Martinsburg, West Virginia may not immediately come to mind when we think about health humanities. Yet during the early days of COVID Dr. Ryan McCarthy, a primary care physician at WVU Medicine’s Berkeley County Medical Center (BMC) in Martinsburg, started a project called Healthcare is Human to document not just his own story, but the stories of all the employees working within the BMC during the pandemic. With the help of Molly Humphries, a Shepherdstown, West Virginia-based photographer, Healthcare is Human crafted a narrative through a mosaic of individual stories through a podcast and photographs. The oral stories were collected by McCarthy and turned into a podcast, with audio production by Kym Mattioli.
Healthcare is Human not only paints a compelling picture of the pandemic experience in a small-town medical center, but also pushes back on prevailing, negative stereotypes of Appalachia. It chronicles the experience of workers whom we typically associate with healthcare, such as doctors and nurses, but also includes hospital chefs, ambulance drivers, security guards, cafeteria workers, and janitors—in other words, those who often work behind the scenes. This more inclusive approach provides a fuller, richer portrait of the work that happened inside the BMC during COVID, and creates an innovative way to incorporate storytelling in multiple forms to help stave off physician burnout.
The initial project included Wild, Wonderful, and Brave, a featured video exhibit created for the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia, and supported by the West Virginia Humanities Council. The exhibit was designed and produced by Cory Garmin.
Ryan McCarthy presented at WVU TEDx in the spring of 2023 about the Healthcare is Human project.
In order to continue the work of Healthcare is Human, the WVU Humanities Center and partners present an exhibit and video. The exhibit was created from thirty black and white photos from the original project, chosen by Molly Humphries, to display along with new ekphrastic poetry from:
Marc Harshman, the West Virginia Poet Laureate,
As well as:
- Amy Alvarez
- Torli Bush
- Renée K. Nicholson
- and Randi Ward.
The exhibit text panels were designed by Sally Brown of WVU’s Art in the Libraries, the video was produced by Cory Garmin, and the video is available to view in the William A. Neal Museum of the Health Sciences.
This yearlong exhibit will include ongoing programming in Fall 2023 and Spring 2024, which can be found humanitiescenter.wvu.edu, and is supported by the WVU Humanities Center. Our collaborators in support for the exhibit, video, and programming include:
- WVU Humanities Center
- WVU Art in the Libraries
- WVU Health Sciences Center
- James M. Shumway & Lizbeth A. Pyle Health Humanities Fund
- Phalunas Family Health Sciences Museum Endowment
- Betty Lou Ramsey and Effie Lucille Ramsey Fund