This page situates my scholarship and teaching (CV) in the context of the lived experiences that have shaped my academic identity.
I received my first masters in mass communication research, fresh out of theoretical physics, from Mass Communication Research Center in 1991, Delhi, India. My undergraduate degree was in physics (honors) from Miranda House, Delhi University, in 1989, which I pursued with the intent to connect theoretical physics foundations with my Vedic meditation practice drawing upon a metaphysical framework of the physical and spiritual worlds in holistic ways. I completed a second masters with a thesis on internet-based social movement communication from UIC in 2004 and my doctoral degree from Purdue, W. Lafayette in communication and technology in behavior change in healthcare settings in 2009.
How individuals feel whole, not as a binary between disease and health or being in pain or pain-free is a central imperative of being healthy holistically. My research focuses on strategic health communication, often in the domain of patient-provider communication in therapeutic and integrative medicine settings. In this area, my interest is in conceptualizing whole-person-centered care that integrates the therapeutic relationship and healing communication approach of distinct but synergistic traditional global medical systems like Ayurveda and biomedical knowledge systems in chronic illness and chronic pain self-management, health promotion, and disease prevention.
Agarwal, V. (August, 2020). Medical humanism, chronic illness, and the body in pain: An ecology of wholeness. New York: Lexington Books.
ISBN, Hardback: 978-1-4985-9645-9 • August 2020 • $115.00 • (£75.00)
ISBN, eBook: 978-1-4985-9646-6 • August 2020 • $109.00 • (£70.00)
I take an interpretive methodological approach to improving provider-patient communication to help meet patient goals for their health and healing outcomes.
Therapeutic Relationships and Patient-Centered Communication. Through my own embodied training and practice, I am particularly interested in contributing to enhancing pragmatic and theoretical knowledge of how we achieve healing alongside health outcomes for providers and patients addressing challenges in chronic care and long-term pain management. In these and related contexts, I seek to improve individual empowerment, provider understanding and communication, and patient-centered care in the provider-patient relationship and in embodied, lived contexts defining the patient’s quality of life [e.g., a talk at a care coordinators team workshop]
My research findings contribute to informing provider-patient and health communication contexts including:
- PCC and chronic pain self-management in Ayurvedic protocol
- provider use of their body in providing care;
- provider communication preventive medicine;
- CAM provider therapeutic relationship;
- pain management for CAM patients (or here);
- understanding lower income women’s maternal approaches in developing world contexts;
- breast cancer preventive behaviors;
- vaccine behaviors for infectious diseases.
Early Health/Feminist Research: My early research was on women’s conceptualization of maternal health practices at the intersection of traditional Indian Ayurvedic approaches and the biomedical system as examined in their practices as migrants in a temporary settlement community in New Delhi (basti/slum).
Taking care, bringing life: A poststructuralist feminist analysis of maternal health discourses of mothers and dai‘s in India. Health Communication, 33, 423-432. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2016.1278492
My first graduate school scholarly manuscript started as a class paper in UIC, with my examination of how migrant girls in New Delhi, India employed online journaling about the urban spaces as a means of constructing empowered identities. It was published with the mentorship of my co-author, Dr. Patrice Buzzanell, in Purdue.
2008. Trialectics of migrant and global representation: Real, imaginary, and online spaces of empowerment in Cybermohalla, Western Journal of Communication, 72, doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/10570310802445975
My dissertation stemmed from my advisor and dissertation committee’s research interests and focused on trust in healthcare settings and nurse infection control behaviors.
2013. I have a paper investigating the cross-validation of trust and behavior change research (2014, vaccination behaviors in young adults, Journal of American College Health) from this line of work.
Ayurveda: Most recently, I completed data gathering for a study to understand the Ayurvedic physician’s mind-body approach in chronic pain management and completed an Advanced Course in Ayurvedic Diet and Nutrition from the International Academy of Ayurved (IAA) in India. A recent article from this project:
Agarwal, V. (2020). Patient assessment and chronic pain self-management in ethnomedicine: Seasonal and ecosystemic embodiment in Ayurvedic patient-centered care. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(8), 2842. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17082842. Published in the special issue: Beyond Conventional Medicine: Ethnomedical Approaches for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.
Under the guidance of the course experts, I gained theoretical and practical knowledge of Ayurveda’s philosophical basis of evaluating and tailoring diet and nutrition as it informs the three physiological (panchbautic), energy (doshas, agni), and cognitive (chitta) aspects of the human body and mind through universal principles (e.g., rasa, dhatus, veerya, vipaka, prabhav) as they operate in each individual (prakriti). My Ayurveda Wellness Education Training certificate helps me better understand and communicate the potential and challenges underlying the integration of the philosophy and treatment approach of traditional healing systems (including provider-patient knowledge of and communication of preventive medicine). Likewise, my Ayurveda for Health Professionals training (70 hours) certificate provides me with a unique insight into the integrative potential of Ayurvedic protocols in the biomedical model for treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes, headaches, digestive concerns, and other lifestyle-based conditions.
International Academy of Ayurveda, Pune, India: Album
Ayurveda training, Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, IA: album
Meditation: I am interested in understanding the mind-body relationship in healing at multiple levels, including patient-centered care in domains such as cancer survivorship and chronic pain management. My research examines the aspect of healing constituted through communication–whether this is in provider-patient communication or in mind-body self-reflexive communication.
I practice Vipassana meditation, India’s most ancient and purist form of meditation, as taught by S.N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagi U Ba Khin. I completed the 10-day meditation course at the Dhamma Giri center, one of the world’s largest Vipassana meditation centers located in Igatpuri, Nasik, Maharashtra, India.
India Research Visit Ayurveda Nutrition and Vipassana Meditation 2019:
My teaching at SU focuses on strategic communication with a specific interest in health, technology, and the digital realm.
Outside the classroom, my focus is on supporting engagement with the learning content in ways that can translate to my students’ lived contexts and goals meaningfully.
My pedagogical approach emphasizes contemplation and reflection, civic engagement, and experiential learning centered in the individual and the community.
Here is a sample of student comments from my 2019 fall Health Communication class semester-long civic engagement project.
I have been on a path to integrate my teaching, service, and research. Early in my tenure-track position (2011), I sought to understand what motivated disaster-relief volunteers to engage in personally risky contexts in their work as an effort to understand how it made them whole.
A few selected photographs from events I’ve organized at the departmental and university level:
Founding Director of OURCA participant in: Council of Undergraduate Research Institute, Ottawa, Canada (2016)
I seek to cultivate my agency in acceptance of lived experiences, balance guiding observation, understanding and awareness in action, and centering in the inward self. My most recent research foci is in foregrounding the deeply under-examined and neglected role of time in culture and healing.
I see nourishment as a material expression of the broader philosophy of sustenance. Our planet is the material, elemental, and spiritual universe that sustains us. In Vedic culture (and arguably, most religions and philosophies), our relationship with food constitutes us in particular, intimate, and profound ways. A mutually nourishing connection of humans, animals, and nature is the foundation of the growth and development of this planet without which science, technology, and religion struggle for ethical meaning and purpose.
I love to run trails (Strava) as a form of blurring the boundaries between nature and the self. Our local nature trails comprise a few miles at Pemberton. I love to spend time with my three guys, one of whom is a naughty and playful chocolate lab, the second a freshly minted aerospace engineer from UMD, and the third a hard working, dedicated family man.
I have been a quiet, academic, contemplative child growing up. I was fond of long nature walks, writing poetry, journaling, and studying literary works (German, Czech, Indian) under the very encouraging and appreciative audience of my father (who brought home books from the air force base libraries at each of our postings for me). I cherish memories of those many summer nights at my grandmother’s, where she made my special dinner for midnight treats on the rooftop to be had with one of her infinitely magical story tales and my grandfather put up a doorway swing for summer afternoons, and took me with him for his nightly after-dinner paan walks.
My personal life shifted drastically with my father’s passing away after a lifetime with chronic illness and rheumatoid arthritis pain and ultimately, leukemia, in my early twenties. After I embarked on my academic life in the US, I drew upon my yoga practice first taught me by my father and the Swami Vivekananda book he gave me on raja yoga and made my own home as an academic (now, with tenure), in the communication discipline.
Be well. Namaste.
**All Rights Reserved. (c) Vinita Agarwal 2013. All content, photographs, and ideas expressed on this site and each of my sites linked from here belong to the author.