Beyond Better

Beyond Better is an interdisciplinary public medical humanities & social media project that aims to intervene in polarized public discourses on healthcare issues by creating space for listening, storytelling, art, nuance, and historical analysis. Our goal is to invite multiple ways-of-knowing into these tense and uninviting spaces to create greater understanding, appreciation, and empathy. You can follow our work on Instagram @TheBeyondBetterProject. 

Afterlives of pandemics, Past & Present

"Afterlives of Pandemics, Past & Present" is Beyond Better's inaugural initiative. It seeks to interrogate encounters of COVID that exist beyond the "better/dead" binary. We ask: How do bodies, lives, and societies change in the weeks, months, and years after an encounter with COVID? How might past epidemics help us understand what is happening now and what will happen in the future? 


Jessica Martucci and Britt Dahlberg are well-established interviewers, story tellers, and public humanities scholars. This project, launched in July 2020, is part of a longer-term dream the two have shared of bringing the lens of disability to public history around issues of equity, inclusion, and social justice in health and science.

jessica martucci, PhD

Jessica completed her PhD in the History and Sociology of Science, and later earned a Masters degree in Bioethics, at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2015 she published her first book, Back the Breast: Natural Motherhood and Breastfeeding in America. Prior to launching Beyond Better, she spent three years leading an Oral History Project that explored the lives and work of disabled scientists. Since 2021, she has served as the Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies in the History & Sociology of Science Department at the University of Pennsylvania where she is also an Adjunct Associate Professor. Beginning in August 2023 she will be the Curator of the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing. You can follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @bioethistorian

britt dahlberg, PhD

Britt completed her Phd in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Before BeyondBetter, she co-designed and led the five-year REACH Ambler Project to use ethnography, oral history, and theater to open up spaces for public dialogue about environmental risk and uncertainty in social and historical context. Britt is now the Director of Research at the Center for Humanism at Copper Medical School of Rowan University. You can follow her on X (formerly Twitter) @brittbdahl

Stay in the loop and follow The Beyond Better Project on Instagram! You can also learn more by visiting our Gallery page

Beyond Better: The Podcast

Each of our summer '21 interns was challenged to create a project that was informed by the work that we were doing. Sophia Lockwood (@soploc) was inspired to create a podcast that invites people to learn more about the project and to take a more introspective look at the last year. Click the image to check it out! 

Events & NEws

Congratulations to Beyond Better intern Magda Y. López Rodríguez on her acceptance to a doctoral program to pursue study in the anthropology of medicine! 

Congratulations to Beyond Better intern Sofia Grant on her acceptance to a doctoral program to pursue study in the history of medicine! 

Forthcoming, 2024/2025 - Stay tuned, we are contributors to a forthcoming volume by The Johns Hopkins University Press which explores the ethics of doing the history of medicine. Our chapter takes the Beyond Better Project as a case study for how to do public medical humanities work ethically. We're excited that we'll get to include pieces of artwork from our "Afterlives of Pandemics" project and share some of the theory and methods we developed along the way. 

December 13-19, 2021 - National Council on Public History Instagram Takeover! Join The Beyond Better on Instagram @publichistorians as we take over the NCPH account for the whole week and share more about who we are, what we are doing, and why we are doing it! 

November 24th, 2021 8:15am EST - Lifetimes of Epidemics workshop at the University of Oslo.

March 2, 2021 5pm EST - Live & Recorded Interview on "Covid Calls" with Professor Scott Knowles: discussing the Beyond Better Project, and Disability and Covid:


Facebook Live


*Auto captions available when viewing through YouTube, and transcripts will be added here next week.

December 10, 2020 - Call for participants. Make history with us and share your COVID story. 


We were able to get our project off the ground in 2020 thanks to the generous support of the following organizations: 

The National Council on Public History

The Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest, Villanova University