Doula Course Student, Sarah McShane, Wins TEDxUNC Contest, Will Be Student Speaker

Sarah McShane, a student in Assistant Professor Rhonda Lanning‘s RN, MSN, CNM, LCCE, IBCLC APPLE’s service-learning course, won the recent campus-wide competition to become the student speaker at the 2016 UNCxTED event.

Sarah, a senior Chemistry and Biology double-major at UNC, has plans to attend medical school in the future. She enrolled in Lanning’s interdisciplinary service-learning course in the fall 2015 where she became a birth doula and now volunteers as a doula with UNC Birth Partners, a program Lanning founded and coordinates at NC Women’s Hospital.

The topic for this year’s UNCxTED is “Bodies: Being Human.” Sarah’s talk will focus on her experience becoming a doula and simultaneously caring for her father in the end stages of a terminal illness. She will discuss the medicalization of birth and death and why it is important that we become more comfortable talking about them. Here’s a sneak peak:

We need to acknowledge that today, these are uncharted waters for most of us. Many women have not witnessed a birth until there is a baby coming out of them. Many have not seen death until a family member is very sick. But it hasn’t always been this way—when towns were smaller and communities were more tightknit and women gave birth at home, it was familiar. By the time a woman was expecting, she had witnessed and supported friends, neighbors, and family members through labor. She had a confidence that her body, too, would be able to birth a child.

Along the same lines, hospitals shield us from death and dead bodies in a way humans were not always. When people died at home, it was acknowledged as a part of the life cycle. Today, Media, Halloween, and zombie TV shows teach us to be afraid of lifeless bodies. We want to view ourselves and our loved ones as invincible and so we buy into this mentality that “the doctor can fix it”, and when the doctor can’t, at least the doctor stands as a barrier between our vitality and the reality of death.

Hear her full talk at TEDxUNC 2016 on February 27 at Memorial Hall. Check the website for ticket availability.