Judy Zhang (double major in Biological Sciences and Spanish 2022) successfully delivered a presentation at the 2022 Spring Undergraduate Research Fair with the topic “The Stigmatization of Menstruation: Causes and Consequences”. She developed her research for Span 1459: “Mapping the Female Body: A Cultural Approach to Women’s Health in the Hispanic World”, a class offered in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures and taught by Dr. Paola Calahorrano. As a future physician, Zhang is quite interested in health humanities and this presentation was an excellent opportunity for her to explore the field.
We interviewed Zhang about her academic goals and her education in the Department.
Through its coursework, the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures is giving students opportunities to explore fields such as health from a cultural perspective in Spanish. What has your experience been with this opportunity?
As an aspiring physician, I strive to provide for my patients from a socially-conscious and culturally sensitive perspective towards medicine, and so it has been very valuable for me to develop my cross-cultural awareness through taking classes in the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures. I have been able to explore the health field from a cultural perspective directly through taking classes such as Medical Spanish and Mapping the Female Body. Additionally, the insights and perspectives I have gained through taking non-health-related classes in the Department will also be valuable in my future career in medicine.
Why were you interested in presenting your final paper for the class "Mapping the Female Body" ("La menstruación y sus estigmas") at the undergraduate research fair?
I feel that topics surrounding menstruation, whether it be something more specific like menstrual equity or something more general like the stigmatization of menstruation, are very important issues that often aren’t discussed enough. Presenting my paper on menstrual stigma at the undergraduate research fair was a great way to increase awareness about this issue. Additionally, as someone who has previously only presented research from the sciences, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to delve into the humanities side of research.
As a future physician, why is important to talk about "menstruation" from a cultural perspective?
As a physician, I hope to make sure all of my patients feel comfortable, respected, and validated in the presence of my care. In order to do this, I believe a medical professional must strive to continually develop their cultural sensitivity, which includes considering health topics through a cultural lens. Within the current healthcare system, oftentimes concerns about menstrual symptoms are left unaddressed, leaving patients feeling unheard and unseen. This is definitely something that needs to be changed, and part of that involves dismantling the stigma surrounding menstruation.
How would you encourage other minors and majors from the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures to participate in the undergraduate research fair in the future?
First and foremost, I would encourage other students to focus on exploring a topic they are truly passionate about rather than trying to find a topic that may seem more “suitable” to present. I went into writing my paper about menstrual stigma in Spain without any intentions or expectations, and I think that sometimes, this is how we get our best work. I also found the process of researching and writing to be very enjoyable, simply because the topic is something I’m very interested in. Additionally, I would not be presenting at the undergraduate research fair without the guidance and support of Dr. Calahorrano, and so I would recommend finding a mentor within the department to connect with. This isn’t difficult at the Department of Hispanic Languages and Literatures, as it is filled with so many amazing people who are all excited and eager to see you succeed. Finally, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone!