This post comes from River Freemont, Student Archives Assistant in the Historical Collections & Archives.
In this recent addition to the OHSU Oral History Program, Dr. Raina Croff, professor of neurology and a Ph.D. in archaeology, discusses growing up in Portland, her past archeological research, and her work as a medical anthropologist at OHSU. The interview is conducted by Dr. Sará King.
As a medical anthropologist, Dr. Croff asks questions about the relationship between cultural world views and understandings about health. She is most fascinated with the question of how to build health programs “from the ground up, working or co-creating with people from various cultures … that really reflect who they are and … how they want to approach health.”
In this interview, Dr. Croff reflects on her work developing the Sharing History through Active Reminiscence and Photo-imagery (SHARP) study in the historically Black neighborhoods of North and Northeast Portland. Decades of gentrification in this community have harmed older peoples’ systems of support, sense of belonging, and ability to age in place. The SHARP study sought to address these factors in cognitive health.
One thing the participants have told me is they say, you know, it’s not like, we don’t expect neighborhoods to change and we’re not against change. But the way that gentrification changes the neighborhood is so thorough and so rapid. It’s beyond like a natural sort of evolution of, of community it is like … a dismantling.
The SHARP study provides a window into how a community can begin to heal from this kind of trauma. Dr. Croff explains, “I was concerned that this would be contributing to depression, anxiety, sadness. But what I heard from participants is that … it’s necessary to go through this.” The study was developed in collaboration with community members. Says Dr. Croff, “I let people know that they’re helping to create this into something they want … I’m bringing this idea and this structure, and now let’s create this thing together.”
The SHARP study comes with a promise, and “that’s what’s most important to me,” Dr. Croff says. Oral histories contributed by SHARP participants are to be made accessible as an online resource for the community. Dr. Croff is also hoping to expand the SHARP program to other historically marginalized communities.
Other topics of interest in this interview include double-consciousness and biracial identity, the relationship between researchers and their subjects, and systemic racism and health. Dr. Croff also makes some fascinating connections between her work in the SHARP study and her archaeological research in Senegal, particularly around ideas of power and cultural memory.
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