Since 1973, the SOHP has worked to preserve the voices of the American South. We have collected more than 6,000 interviews with people from all walks of life—from mill workers to Civil Rights leaders to future presidents of the United States.  We are one of the premier oral history programs in the world, and our interviews’ audio and transcripts are all available online and searchable for researchers around the globe.

Oral history has long been used in the United States to record and document the lives and outlooks of providers, whether physicians, nurses, midwives, or dentists. In this new research agenda, SOHP will include these voices, but will also focus on the other side of care – exploring average North Carolinians’ attitudes, beliefs, and thoughts about health, illness, and medical care within their communities, in both urban and rural areas across the state.

In 2016, SOHP received a UNC FIRE grant to engage in interdisciplinary collaboration with UNC’s Cardiology Department’s SUDDEN Project and the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science. This collaboration was formed to test the possibilities of using oral histories to help doctors and healthcare providers understand systemic problems leading to sudden death. We have been exploring what oral history as a method, and life narratives as a data source, can and cannot tell us about individuals’ health-related habits, beliefs, and decision-making.  We began by mining the existing SOHP oral history archive for medical narratives already in our collection.

While our research has revealed intriguing anecdotes and information in close to two hundred interviews in our extant archive, we have concluded that this is a rich vein of research that has been under-tapped in our earlier collecting. We are thus seeking to embark on a new research project that focuses specifically on the questions previous researchers did not ask.  With the help of a university-wide advisory board (see appendix) we are beginning to design this new endeavor.

FIRE Grant Research Team

Rachel Seidman is director of the Southern Oral History Program (SOHP) and an adjunct assistant professor of History and Women’s and Gender Studies at UNC Chapel Hill. Seidman’s current research project is an oral history of feminist activism in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015 (under contract with UNC Press). She is the author of The Civil War: A History in Documents (Oxford University Press) and the co-editor of Our Documents: 100 Milestone Documents from the National Archives. Seidman served as the associate director of the SOHP from 2011-2017, and before that was associate director of the History, Public Policy and Social Change program at Duke University.

Dr. Ross Simpson is professor of medicine and clinical professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease and certified by the National Board of Medical Examiners.  He is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and the American College of Physicians and a Fellow of the National Lipid Association.  Dr. Simpson is principal investigator of SUDDEN, a population-based study of the epidemiology of all-cause, out-of-hospital, sudden unexpected death (OHSUD) in adults under age 65. His other areas of research interest include the management of hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease, and he has lectured nationally and internationally on these topics.  His work is widely published, and he serves as a reviewer for numerous medical publications.

Paul Mihas is the assistant director of education and qualitative research at the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He regularly advises graduate students and faculty on qualitative methods, software, and strategies for analysis. He is the former managing editor of Social Forces, a journal of sociology published at the University of North Carolina Press. Mihas has lectured on qualitative methods at several universities, including the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland; Balamand University, Lebanon; the University of Puerto Rico; Howard University; and Temple University. Since 2001, he has also served as a qualitative research consultant with ResearchTalk, Inc.

Taylor A. Livingston (PhD, IBCLC) is a feminist, medical anthropologist. She received her PhD in Anthropology from UNC Chapel Hill and is currently a postdoctoral scholar in Maternal and Child Health at the University of South Florida Department of Community and Family Health and Centers for Excellence in Maternal and Child Health. Prior to joining USF in January 2018, Livingston worked for the Center for the Study of the American South as a program administrator and the SOHP as a research associate and field scholar. Her research interests include anthropology of the U.S. South, critical medical anthropology, applied anthropology and public health, health disparities, perinatal health outcomes, breastfeeding and lactation.

Neil Patel is a senior undergraduate student from Poughkeepsie, NY. He is majoring in biology and economics, and is interested in health economics and planning to attend medical school. Patel is also a research assistant with the SUDDEN project and is excited to learn about the lives of individuals who may be at high risk for sudden death through their stories.




Samip Patel is a senior from Cary, North Carolina majoring in nutrition. He is an undergraduate research assistant with the SUDDEN team, which investigates out-of-hospital sudden unexpected death (OHSUD) in adults ages 18-64. He is particularly interested in studying the prevalence of health disparities and OHSUD in rural communities. Patel hopes that his research will translate into tangible clinical solutions that can be disseminated to and utilized by physicians.