SHOT Joint Session

Navigating the Profession with Chronic Illness or Invisible Disabilities


Allison Marsh

University of South Carolina


Allison Marsh

University of South Carolina


Session Abstract

I couldn't read by third grade and was soon diagnosed with dyslexia; my pediatrician didn't put it in my official record because he didn't want me labeled. In high school, I was diagnosed with Meniere 's disease, and I sometimes spontaneously lose hearing in one or both ears. A few months before starting graduate school, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, making standing for a full lecture or typing for extended periods nearly impossible. Mid-semester I had to have 30% of my small bowel and colon removed due to Crohn's disease; I'm the designated driver because I can't go out drinking with my colleagues. Two weeks before my tenure file was due, I had a stroke; I still haven't told my department.
These are not the ailments of a single unfortunate person, but rather the combined lived experience and perspectives of the individuals presenting in this session. We propose an interactive roundtable, where each panelists offers a short personal introduction (5-7 minutes), followed by an open discussion with the audience.
Historians of science, medicine, and technology are uniquely positioned to study diseases and disabilities (both mental and physical), their treatments, and technological interventions that aid recovery and assimilation into a normalized world. However, we rarely reflect on how such disorders affect our research and teaching, from graduate school through full-time employment in the field (including both traditional and alt-ac careers).
We hope our panel can raise awareness of the challenges people with invisible disabilities face, help develop a more productive vocabulary for discussing the full spectrum of disability, and consider how universities/colleges can better serve those with hidden disabilities and chronic illnesses.
Diversity Statement: This panel two graduate students, one lecturer, one assistant professor, and one tenured associate professor. Each panelists has a federally recognized (Schedule A) disability.

Presenter 1

E. Allen Driggers

Tennessee Technological University

Presenter 2

Jillian Hinderliter

University of South Carolina

Presenter 3

Caroline Peyton

University of Memphis

Presenter 4

Laura Smith

University of Arkansas