RHMS professor and student research assistant win Knower award for cardiac communication research

The Knower Award from the Interpersonal Division of the National Communication Association was awarded to Professor of Rhetoric & Media Studies Daena Goldsmith and Lewis & Clark alumna Kelsey Domann-Scholz ’11 for their paper entitled “The Meanings of ‘Open Communication’ Among Couples Coping with a Cardiac Event.” Their research appeared in the 2013 Journal of Communication, volume 63.

The Knower Award is given to a scholarly article for “scholarship of exceptional quality and influence.” Although Goldsmith and Domann-Scholz’s publication of their research came out in 2013, they did not win the award until 2015. They recently presented their research and the major implications of it on Nov. 12 in Philadelphia at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association.

Their research explored the ideology of openness, focusing on open communication among couples coping with a cardiac crisis. They analyzed questions such as: How does communication between spouses change after a major heart event, such as a heart attack? Will things be easier or harder to converse about? How, if so, has health affected other aspects of life? Goldsmith and Domann-Scholz discovered that openness and privacy are important constituents of healthy relationships. They also found that couples have different views of what it means to be ‘open’ in a relationship.

Goldsmith started this project 15 years ago when she was a professor of communications at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. She appreciates research that combines theoretical and practical importance.

“The theoretical importance [in this study] was the conception of openness   and questioning all of these theories of openness and the effects of openness,” Goldsmith said. “The practical part is advice given to couples of how they should live their lives.”

Goldsmith recruited patients through the hospital in Urbana Champaign, as well as the University. She also interviewed people from the outlying farm areas. Her sample was fairly big with numerous participants, yet not racially diverse. Most patients were of European-American descent and between the ages of 37-81. On average, couples were together for 36 years, with a range of 3-55 years. By the time Goldsmith moved to LC in 2006, she had gathered all of her interview data. She just needed scholarly assistance in coding interview transcripts. When Goldsmith asked Domann-Scholz if she would like to work with her, Domann-Scholz immediately jumped at the opportunity.

According to Domann-Scholz, she greatly enhanced her research and analytical skills through this project. Goldsmith empowered her to take risks and pursue her interests in other areas. Domann-Scholz is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate (LPCA) in the state of North Carolina as well as a Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC). She currently works as a therapist with individual adults as well as youths and their families.

“It was a great crash course in qualitative methods and I think in many ways sparked my interest in pursuing counseling as a career path,” Domann-Scholz said. “It felt so intimate to read transcripts of interviews with individuals describing how their relationship with their partner changed as a result of a cardiac event, and I now have the great honor of being with people on a daily basis as they experience all types of personal challenges and mental health concerns. I am also currently thinking about ways that I could use a version of a methodology for a possible doctoral dissertation.”

At LC, Domann-Scholz worked in the Behavioral Health and Social Psychology lab with Chair and Professor of Psychology Brian Detweiler-Bedell and Professor of Psychology Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell. They both greatly enjoyed collaborating with Domann-Scholz.

“[Kelsey] was highly responsible, professional, and personable, making her an ideal person to interact with research participants,” Jerusha said. “Kelsey was a pleasure to work with not only because she was so reliable and trustworthy, but also because she understood the true nature of collaborative research.

Goldsmith shared the sentiment.

“I love working with students,” Goldsmith said. “There is this nice thread since I worked with a professor on interviews at LC about taboo topics. And then 20 years later I’m a professor working with a student. So it feels like things have come full circle, so that’s nice.”

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