This page situates my scholarship and teaching in the context of the everyday 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 (1989), which helped me connect theoretical physics with the metaphysical framework of Vedic meditation practice. 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 with my dissertation on behavior change in healthcare settings in 2009.
Agarwal, V. (2020). Medical humanism, chronic illness, and the body in pain: An ecology of wholeness. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books.
Publisher’s URL: Rowman & Littlefield: ISBN, Hardback: 978-1-4985-9645-9 • 2020 •
Agarwal, V. (under contract, Routledge). Health and Social Justice: A Whole-Person Activist Approach. New York: Routledge
How individuals feel whole, not as a binary between disease and health or being in pain or pain-free is central to being healthy. 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.
By taking an interpretive methodological approach, my research seeks a patient-centered, narrative, and experiential mode to help individuals construct and achieve their health and healing outcomes.
Therapeutic Relationships and Patient-Centered Communication. Through my own embodied training and practice, I am interested in contributing to enhancing pragmatic and theoretical knowledge of how we achieve healing alongside health outcomes for CAM providers and patients addressing challenges in chronic care and long-term therapeutic pain management. In these and related contexts, I examine individual empowerment, provider understanding and communication, and the provider-patient relationship and in defining the patient’s quality of life [e.g., a talk at a care coordinators team workshop] My research (selected; below), seeks to contribute to provider-patient & health communication contexts:
- 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 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 at UIC, with my examination of how migrant girls in New Delhi employed online journaling about the urban spaces as a means of constructing empowered identities. It was published with the support and 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) that illustrates this line of work.
Ayurveda: As a part of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy), Ayurveda is one of India’s five recognized systems of medicine. Ayurveda is a 5000-year old whole-person system of medicine that originated in India and comprises eight branches (e.g., kaya chikitsa–internal medicine, shalya chikitsa-surgery, damstra chikitsa–toxicology, graha chikitsa–psychology). It is premised on the connections between the environment, food and nutrition, sustainable lifestyle, and mindfulness of the balance and circularity of all manifestation as centering our existence. In my research on traditional medicine approaches as they intersect with our present-day health, healing, and wellness models, most recently, I completed data gathering for a study to understand the Ayurvedic physician’s mind-body approach in chronic pain management and an Advanced Course in Ayurvedic Diet and Nutrition from 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 therapeutic relationships or in mind-body self-reflexive communication.
I practice Vipassana meditation, every morning between 4 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and early evenings. It is 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 Albums:
My teaching centers strategic communication with a specific interest in health, technology, and the digital realm.
My pedagogical approach emphasizes reflection, civic engagement, and experiential learning.
Here is a sample of student comments from my 2019 fall Health Communication class semester-long civic engagement project.
My goal is to integrate my teaching, service, and research. Early in my tenure-track position (2011), I sought to understand what motivated disaster-relief volunteers, in an organization my students examined for a class project, 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) (album)
I love to run trails (My Strava; my Strava ID:6020199) as a form of blurring boundaries between nature and the self and meditating on being in the moment with nature. The Brihadranyaka Upanishad text that I have carried with me since I came across it in my India college years has informed my philosophical knowledge of advaita vedic and secular Hindu philosophy and its meditative practices as summarized by Swami Vivekananda. My early undergraduate education of contemporary quantum physics and casual awareness since of the field’s present-day quandaries shapes my understandings of how the advaita vedic knowledge resonates in current scientific grapplings with the nature of space, time, and gravity and its manifestations in embodiment and transience. Our local nature trails comprise a few miles at Pemberton. Many of the trails have lost their tree cover. It has been months since I last saw the black garter snake I used to jump over while running so many times in the past and the occasional deer that hopefully still find some privacy in the remaining green. I love to spend my time with a very few close people, most especially my naughty and playful English-American chocolate lab baby (May 6, 2009–May 30, 2021). My husband is a dedicated family man and my close friend of more than 27 years and my 23-year-old son (Bachelors in Aerospace Engineering, UMD, 2020) a robotics engineer at ProtoInnovations, where he is working on the VIPER for NASA’s 2023 moon mission on his first job, started in February 2021, and one that takes him away from our home to Pittsburgh to begin a new chapter of his life.
***(Update: On May 30, 2021, Memorial Day weekend, even as we moved into our new 3.5 acre house with a six stable barn and grapevines and close to Pemberton Park trails bought especially with a view to enjoying with our beloved lab, Scout passed away unexpectedly, at 12 years and 24 days of age, playing and being naughty to his last hour, on just the second night of our move. I share my pain along with so many others who have experienced loss and bereavement in the context of COVID-19 or other environmental and personal events)***
Long nature walks, writing poetry, and reading literary works (German, Czech, Indian) introduced to me by my father (from the Air Force base libraries at our postings) have been my dominant pastimes. My cherished memories are those of many long summer nights at my nani‘s, where she made my dinner of sambar rice (whose very special taste I have been on an unsuccessful quest to duplicate since then) on the rooftop to be had with one of her infinitely magical good night story tales and my nana put up a doorway rope swing for me to swing on during hot summer afternoons, and took me with him for his nightly after-dinner paan walks.
My personal life shifted 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.