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Bonnie B. O'Connor

BONNIE B. O’CONNOR, Professor emerita of Pediatrics, Alpert Medical School, Brown University

BA, English, Smith College 1971 (minor: Spanish). Worked in Pioneer Valley area of Massachusetts as a teacher and carpenter for 9 years after college before coming to the University of Pennsylvania folklore program in 1980. PhD in Folklore from Penn 1990; dissertation director, David Hufford. Lois Mattox Miller Post-doctoral Fellow in Medical Humanities at Medical College of Pennsylvania (MCP), 1990-1992. Joined MCP faculty as Assistant Professor, Community and Preventive Medicine, 1992; visiting assistant professor of folklore, University of Pennsylvania, 1992-1993; adjunct assistant professor, 1997-1999; Associate professor Community and Preventive Medicine, MCP-Hahnemann School of Medicine, 1998-2000; Adjunct assistant professor, History and Sociology of Science (Penn), 1999-2000; Associate professor Public Health, MCP, 1998-2000. Moved in 2000 to Rhode Island as Associate Professor (Research) of Pediatrics, Brown University School of Medicine; Professor of Pediatrics (Clinical Scholar), July 2011–December 2013

Because of my parents’ passions and work, we lived in Mexico City when I was a baby, and Texas thereafter. I had the benefits of speaking Spanish before English, of growing up bilingual, and of knowing the legitimacy of plural perspectives: that there are many reasonable and meaningful ways to interpret and approach any issue. This led me to become a folklorist. My personal background and my professional life incline me to work on particular issues for the profession. One is to work to open more channels for folklorists’ employment in every aspect of health care, health policy, and bioethics. We have a great potential job market in every aspect of health care. Medical and public health research are increasingly recognizing the essential contributions that ethnographic research can give to epidemiology, to the formulation of health policy in both emergency/epidemic settings, and long-term public health planning. Most professionals in this field have no experience with ethnography and related types of qualitative research. Ethnographic research is rapidly becoming a valued approach to public health and health services research; such researchers, at present, have to be drawn from other disciplines. Why not from folklore? I also want to develop general guidelines for folklorists’ employment in arenas outside of the bounds of the discipline. There are countless arenas in which applied folklore can be of critical value. I would like to help AFS develop a greater number of such venues, together with forging institutional and organizational connections that will help to establish and invigorate these relationships.

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