Beyond Better

Beyond Better is an interdisciplinary, multi-media public medical humanities effort that seeks to destabilize ableist narratives in American healthcare through oral history, storytelling, and art.

Make history with us and share your COVID story!

Afterlives of pandemics, Past & Present

It has been less than a year since a new coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China. From the World Health Organization to universities in the U.S., the spread of this pandemic has been measured and reported primarily in terms of positive viral and antibody test results, deaths, hospitalizations, and recoveries.

In the midst of this ongoing crisis, few have had the opportunity to adequately reflect on what it means to “recover” from this poorly understood virus. Each day, new stories emerge on social and digital media that point to some of the long-term health implications of a bout with COVID-19. The unique needs, concerns, and experiences of COVID-19 survivors, however, remain poorly understood. The impact of this pandemic beyond the toll it takes on people's bodies is even less known.

What can we learn about health, illness, disability, and society by looking at the current experiences of COVID-19 survivors alongside the past experiences of polio survivors from the mid-twentieth century?

"Afterlives of Pandemics, Past & Present" is Beyond Better's inaugural initiative. Through the collection of personal narratives from those who have lived through pandemics, past & present, "Afterlives of Pandemics," will place stories of contemporary experiences into historical perspective and put them on our digital platforms here at, and on our Instagram page (@thebeyondbetterproject). We're also excited to recruit illustrators and animators from the disability community to work with us to create and share original visual art works that will help explore the experiences of our interview participants.


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

I completed my PhD in the History and Sociology of Science, and later earned a Masters degree in Bioethics, at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to launching Beyond Better, I spent three years leading an Oral History Project that documented the experiences of disabled Scientists.

britt dahlberg, PhD

I completed my Phd in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Before BeyondBetter, I 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.

Stay in the loop and follow us on Instagram! You can also see what we've been up to by visiting our Gallery page to read more about the images and stories we're collecting.

Events & NEws

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

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.

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