I hold an undergraduate degree in Biology and Religion from Oberlin College, and a doctorate in public health (international health/health policy focus) from the Johns Hopkins University. I have done postgraduate work in medical ethics at Harvard University and in narrative medicine at Columbia University. I am also Adjunct Associate Professor in the UW Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and Affiliate Faculty in the UW’s Certificate Program in Public Scholarship. Since 1986, I have worked as a family nurse practitioner providing primary health care to homeless and refugee populations in community clinics on both coasts of the US. Through a Fulbright Fellowship, I expanded my research and advocacy internationally with work in Thailand. The focus of my career has been to increase an understanding of the lives of marginalized populations, and to develop ways to increase their access to effective health care. My scholarship is community and practice-based, applied to real world ‘wicked’ problems of homelessness, gender-based violence, and access to health care. My recent writing and publications fall within the narrative medicine area I term critical policy narrative: using personal stories to highlight important public policy issues within a social justice/emancipatory framework. As a university faculty member I have published numerous journal articles and book chapters on homelessness, human rights, and health. I write a blog “Medical Margins” on health policy, nursing, and social justice. I write about topics and lives lived at the margins of society in order to create a space for empathy conducive to action.
Current teaching includes undergraduate and graduate-level courses in health politics and policy, community health, and narrative medicine. I have taught community health study abroad programs in Thailand and New Zealand. My teaching emphasizes experiential and transformational learning (including service-learning), inquiry-based cooperative learning, and development of critical thinking skills. I feel my main teaching responsibility is nurturing compassion, critical thinking, and civic engagement skills of students to enable them to become change agents.
Practice, Service, Community Involvement
Professional memberships include the Association of Health Care Journalists, Modern Language Association, PEN America Society, National Health Care for the Homeless Council (Policy Committee), Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and the Northwest Science Writers Association. I have served as a Core Advisory Group Member of YouthCare's Bridge Program, a rehabilitation program for teen prostitutes in Seattle. I serve as a faculty preceptor for the UW’s Teeth and Toes homeless clinics, in conjunction with the UW Community Health Advancement Program (School of Medicine) and the UW School of Dentistry. I am the School of Nursing Faculty Advisor for the UW interprofessional U-District Street Medicine student-led program.
- Ensign, J. (May 2014). No Place Like Home(less). Pulse: Voices From the Heart of Medicine/ Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center.
- Ensign, J. (February 2014). Steps to Footcare. The Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine, Columbia University.
- Ensign, J. (May 17, 2013). On the Road essay published in Pulse: Voices From the Heart of Medicine. Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
- Ensign, J. (May 20013). Soul Story essay published in Jack Straw Writers Anthology, volume 17.
- Ensign, J. (April 2013). Next of Kin essay in the anthology I Wasn’t Strong Like This When I Started Out: True Stories of Becoming a Nurse, edited by Lee Gutkind, In Fact Press.
- Ensign, J. (Spring 2013). Home Death. Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine.
- Ensign, J. (November 2012). Homeless Ghosts. University of Iowa‘s Examined Life Journal.
- Ensign, J. (April 2011). Reprint/excerpt of Gone South in The Daily Palette, University of Iowa.
- Ensign, J. (Spring 2011). Gone South. Silk Road. 6(1): pp 8-16.
Current Research Projects
- J. Ensign, PI, “Soul Stories: Design and Evaluation of Interprofessional Service-learning Narrative Medicine Project. 4Culture Grant.
- J. Ensign, PI, “Soul Stories,” (essays/photos about the stories feet can tell about homelessness/for UW School of Medicine Interprofessional service-learning training modules). Jack Straw Productions Writers Program Grant.