‘RESILIENT’ showcases Bostonians’ opioid recovery

RESILIENT Co-directors Joyce Zhou and Mimi Yen Li (center) with BWH physicians Christin Price (from left), Galina Gheihman, Joji Suzuki, and Scott Weiner at the exhibit opening. Photo by Jordan Said

3 min read

The opioid crisis is being felt acutely in Massachusetts, with nearly 40 individuals dying every week from an opioid overdose. Amidst the epidemic, a new project led by two Harvard Medical School (HMS) students aims to highlight a different story arc.

“RESILIENT: Narratives of Hope from Boston’s Opioid Crisis” is a curated collection of interviews and photographs of 31 individuals connected to the opioid epidemic in the greater Boston area. The exhibit, which launched Wednesday evening at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), displays the insights and images of the individuals across five themed panels spanning more than 35 feet. A team of over twenty individuals, mostly composed of healthcare students and other young professionals, collected the interviews and photographs for RESILIENT over the course of the last year.

RESILIENT co-directors Mimi Yen Li and Joyce Zhou, second-year students at HMS, said they hope the project will engage viewers about topics such as stigma, medication-assisted treatment, and recovery options. They also hope to promote conversation and action.

“We aimed to create a platform to present a different narrative of the opioid crisis,” Zhou said. “While recognizing the tragedy and loss, RESILIENT highlights hope and recovery, a side of the story too often missed in coverage of the epidemic.”

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The four primary panels are organized thematically. “On Empathy” challenges viewers to consider the stigma against substance use disorder as a barrier to empathizing with those struggling with opioid dependence. “On Healing” focuses on stories of recovery from those who struggled with opioid dependence and the individuals who helped guide their healing. “On Change” chronicles innovations in medical management, government policy, and law enforcement which have all been aimed at improving the city’s and the state’s response to the crisis. The final panel, “On Belonging,” asks viewers to consider the role they can play.

“How will you take part?” the exhibit concludes.

“We have a profound debt to everyone who shared their stories with us for this project,” Yen Li adds. “This project would not have been possible without the courage of our interviewees and the hard work of our volunteer contributors.”

The launch of RESILIENT coincided with the start of “Recovery Month,” a series of events that have been organized to educate staff and community members about the opioid crisis and bring attention to services offered at the hospital to combat it. The launch included guest speakers Dr. Joji Suzuki, Dr. Christin Price, and Dr. Scott Weiner from BWH’s comprehensive opioid response team; Ursel Hughes, a recovery coach, person in recovery, and project participant; a patient from BRIDGE clinic; and co-directors Zhou and Yen Li. The event concluded with an animated story of recovery featuring project participant Pesha Rose Miller. More than 150 community members attended the exhibit.

The exhibit is open to the public and will remain on display at BWH for the next two months.