Jen Fisher, MLIS, is the Research Librarian, an Assistant Professor of Medical Humanities, and the Urban Underserved Track’s Co-Director. They joined the RVU team in 2014, starting as a part-time Library Clerk while simultaneously completing their Master of Library and Information Science degree. They were promoted to the Library Assistant the following year before moving into their current roles.
Over the last few months, Jen has participated in multiple virtual events. During June, they led two Pride Month Movie + Discussion events. Jen also led a Gender Queer event at the end of September, an informative discussion regarding social constructs, the history of gender roles, and so much more!
Each year, Jen hosts a Halloween-themed talk; this year, they will be leading “It’s Alive! The Medical Ethics of Frankenstein’s Monster and the History of Corpse Medicine,” which covers how the medical ethics discussed in the classic novel are still as relevant today as they were over 200 years ago.
Along with Dr. Elizabeth George, Jen also co-directs the elective class, The History of Medicine, which “examines the different ways that doctors have thought about health and illness over the past two-and-a-half thousand years.” Students engage in active discussions about the roles medicine can have over gender, class, race, and childhood.
Questions for Jen:
Below, we asked Jen to answer the questions they receive most on campus.
Can you special order an article if it is not available through the library?
Yes, RVU community members can always request that the library purchase articles and other media that may not currently be in the library’s collection. You can do that by either going to the FRAML website or through PubMed and filling out the “RVU Request an Article” forms there.
Can students/faculty check out anatomical models?
Typically RVU community members have access to anatomical models during regular staffed hours; however, due to the current pandemic, we are currently not circulating any of our physical collection at this time.
How can students start a literature review?
With me, of course! One of the perks of being an RVU student or faculty member is that I’m here to help you locate articles and navigate the research process. As the Research Librarian, I’m here to help you search for and obtain more nuanced sources for your project than you might have found on your own and be your second pair of eyes when navigating our many databases.
Personal Questions about Jen:
What is the greatest bit of advice a mentor or parent gave you?
My undergrad physics teacher once said, “Disorder is not a mistake; it is our default. Order is and always will be artificial and temporary. In science, for a change to occur, you must apply more energy to the system than is extracted by the system. That means you’ll always have to put more effort into fixing a problem than the effort that went into making the problem. You’ll always have more work to do when it comes to maintaining your relationships, your job, your dreams, your lives, and that work will never be finished. So it’s your job to create the change in the world you want to see.”
Who inspires you?
My aunt gave me a beat-up copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on my 10th birthday, and it got me hooked on science from that day forward. Sagan wrote about the universe in a way that I hadn’t encountered before; he wasn’t dry and cold about how he presented the facts as you’d see in a lot of textbooks. Sagan loved space and had such a passion for unraveling the universe’s mysteries that it really inspired me. He was also a great perpetrator of skepticism. Until his last days, Sagan was a great defender against superstition and what he called “junk science,” urging humanity always to value critical thinking. He believed that: “extraordinary claims always require extraordinary levels of proof or evidence.”
What’s the last book you read?
The last book I read was Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics, written by Gregory J. Gbur, a physics and optical science professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He also writes two blogs about horror and the history of science, and I follow his Twitter, which is both weird and full of cat pictures. The book explores how falling cats land on their feet and how the scientists trying to figure out how they do it led to crucial insights into mathematics, geophysics, neuroscience, and even human space exploration. Plus, you know, it’s about cats.
Fun Fact About Them:
For three years, Jen and their friend, Nikki, hosted a podcast called, “Feeling Super: The Misinterpretation of Mental Illness in Pop Culture,” and continue to present educational panels under the same moniker at comic conventions in Denver and around the Pacific Northwest. They discuss different pop culture as often society’s first look at mental illnesses and how often movies, games, and television get these subjects wrong.
A Peek into Their Personal Life:
In their words, Jen is “owned” by four cats and a beagle. Their hobbies include weight training, creative writing, cosplay, and cycling. They are currently taking care of their grandfather. They are also very close to their three younger brothers.
Recently, Jen has proudly begun transitioning away from a standard feminine identity and has come out as non-binary. They feel that this is more in line with the androgynous person they see themselves as and have legally changed their name to Jensen. The preferred pronouns, when addressing Jen, are “they/them/their.” While talking with them for this article, they offered great insight into the history of binary gender roles and how such roles are social constructs that no longer fit today’s society.
While the majority of the RVU community has been supportive, a few individuals have asked, “How can I be a better healthcare provider and uphold my oath when my beliefs don’t support this lifestyle?” Jen explained that when someone has deeply held beliefs, they are not going to change their minds after one conversation. Jen further elaborates, “Building real human connection is how we influence each other and can better understand other’s perspectives even when we don’t agree. We have to listen to each other and being willing to ask questions.” Jen is happy to continue an open dialogue based on mutual respect with anyone who wants to learn more about gender non-conformity or the LGBTQ community in general. Working in an educational environment requires constant adaptation to changes and the willingness to accommodate and respect others.