Diabetes, Health, and Digital Storytelling

Contact Information

Lori Beth De Hertogh, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, School of Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication, James Madison University, Harrison Hall, 2262 , Email: dehertlb@jmu.edu, Web: loribethdehertogh.com


Students enrolled in WRTC 458: Scientific and Medical Communication this semester are getting hands-on experience researching type 2 diabetes to help improve healthcare in the Shenandoah Valley.

The course, taught by Dr. Lori Beth De Hertogh, focuses on how individuals with type 2 diabetes in the Valley communicate their condition to others. Such a focus aims to help healthcare providers, educators, and community outreach coordinators develop policies and practices that are responsive to the perceptions of the disease and the stigma patients may experience.

Students work with a Certified Diabetes Educator (Julie Pierantoni, RN, MSN, Sentara RMH Medical Center), Cynthia Martin (MA, Instructor, JMU) and individuals in the Harrisonburg community to complete a series of projects that rhetorically explore type 2 diabetes, specifically, and health communication and digital storytelling, more broadly.

Coursework consists of a digital health narrative, a diabetes report, and a digital story on community health. Students will also experience the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process firsthand by completing Human Subjects Research Training and by participating in a Sentara RMH Diabetes Advisory Council, both of which prepare them to serve as student-researchers for a diabetes research project through a partnership between JMU and Sentara RMH Medical Center. As part of the project, students will conduct interviews with individuals who live with type 2 diabetes to determine the extent to which they experience stigma and how that stigma might affect disease management.

Web Presence



Involves Faculty, Involves Staff, Involves Students, Involves Participants External to JMU


JMU Campus Scope, Harrisonburg/Local/VA


This class is taught in the spring of 2019 and stems from a university-to-community partnership begun in spring of 2018.


Ongoing (Currently in existence, year round)

Primary Focus of Program

Community and Economic development; Health and Healthcare

Benefits for Faculty, Students, Community, and Institution

This course benefits faculty, students, the community, and community partner. More information on the course is available here: https://www.jmu.edu/news/wrtc/2019/03-12-diabetes-stigma.shtml The course syllabus is available here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rsqY-eLS6fNz1zAoxrEeE1JLqtv4olgxPjDNtellJCI/edit This course project and research will be presented (possibly with undergraduate students) at the Conference on Community Writing in October, 2019. Preliminary research was presented at the JMU Engagement for the Public Good Conference in 2018.

Community Partner Name

Julie Pierantoni, RN, MSN (Sentara RMH Medical Center)

Areas of Engagement

Community Engagement, Engaged Learning


Research, Class/Coursework

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