Can Stories Save Lives? A New UNC Project Aims To Find Out

Aug 31, 2018

A new collaborative project aims to use oral history to better understand how NC residents think about their health.
Credit Southern Oral History Program / Center for the Study of the American South

Cardiologist Dr. Ross Simpson has spent years studying premature sudden death. He investigates why people between the ages of 18-64 with no pre-existing conditions are dying in North Carolina. 

And while he was able to learn quite a bit about their bodies and medical history, he knew very little about their day-to-day lives and behavior. So, he decided to look outside the box for answers. He called up oral historian Rachel Seidman, and that phone call launched the new collaborative research initiative “Stories to Save Lives.” It is a partnership between the Southern Oral History Program and a group of healthcare professionals that brings the methods of oral history interviews to the field of healthcare. This qualitative data aims to illuminate how North Carolinians think about and act on their health concerns and how they interface with the medical system. It could also bridge knowledge gaps and shape public policy.

Host Frank Stasio talks about the initiative with Dr. Ross Simpson, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the UNC School of Medicine who is a project leader for SUDDEN, a research program investigating sudden death in adults. He also talks with Rachel Seidman, director of the Southern Oral History Program and adjunct assistant professor of history and women’s and gender studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.