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Call for Papers — Special Issue in ‘Heroism Science’ on Healthcare Heroes

Special Issue in Heroism Science

EDITORS:   Dr. Elaine L. Kinsella (University of Limerick) and Dr. Rachel Sumner (Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Healthcare workers— doctors, nurses, technicians, other health care professionals, and hospital support staff—around the world have faced the significant challenge of providing care for patients with COVID-19, while often poorly prepared and ill-equipped. These workers have risked their own lives to save the lives of others, often at great cost to them and their families. Perhaps not surprisingly, healthcare workers around the world have been described as heroes and hashtags such as #frontlineheroes and #healthcareheroes have been used widely on social media.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and previous health crises, the media have repeatedly praised healthcare workers for their ‘heroic’ work. Yet, many healthcare workers have suffered (and continue to suffer) psychological and physical ill-effects as a result of their occupational efforts and complexities, along with challenges associated with tensions between work and home-life. Indeed, research indicates that healthcare workers are experiencing high rates of burnout, posttraumatic stress syndrome, compassion fatigue and moral injury, along with poor physical and psychological health.

Recent polling would suggest, across many countries, healthcare workers are considering leaving their jobs and starting new careers. Meanwhile, in the developed world at least, government and public expectations for high quality and expedient healthcare delivery are increasing, and many national healthcare providers are under scrutiny to reach targets despite widespread workforce absenteeism, attrition, mismanagement and underfunding.

The use of the hero label during healthcare crises raises questions about how we, as members of the general public, need and seek out heroic figures in our lives, particularly during times of physical or psychological threat. The experience of being labelled hero in the pandemic has also had repercussions for those hailed as the heroes of Covid-19, leading to questions of what impact the receipt of the label can have on health, wellbeing, and motivation. Furthermore, this raises questions about how describing other workers (e.g., first responders, rescue workers, firefighters, members of the armed forces) as heroes could change both their experience of the role, and others’ expectations of their role.

This special issue of the journal Heroism Science aims to offer academics, researchers, policy makers, media personnel and members of the general public new perspectives and empirical insights into the relationships between healthcare and heroism with regard to our expectations of healthcare workers and healthcare systems, our interactions with health workers, and the experiences of healthcare workers across cultures.

In this special issue, we call on researchers, academics and practitioners across all disciplines to:

  • Interrogate the links between healthcare and heroism, historically and in the modern era
  • Offer new insights into the use of the hero label during the Covid-19 pandemic and other healthcare crises
  • Explore what the label hero conveys to healthcare workers in terms of their own and others’ expectations about their capabilities and capacity to protect and save others
  • Offer novel insights into how internalisations of the ‘hero’ persona might impact on healthcare workers’ behaviour, thoughts, and emotions, as well as on their own health and wellbeing
  • Consider how implicit assumptions and broader narratives of healthcare workers as heroes influence broader expectations of healthcare workers and healthcare organisations
  • Offer new knowledge relating to both the status quo and the future of healthcare and the extent that broader societal narratives might need to change or adapt to promote a better vision of healthcare
  • Consider the extent that seeing healthcare workers as heroes has benefitted or negatively impacted others such as service users and members of the general public
  • Explore the impact of hero label on other types of workers (e.g., first responders, rescue workers, firefighters, members of the armed forces) and draw broader meaning for healthcare workers and the use of the hero label

We welcome original research, theoretical contributions, review and opinion articles relevant to this special issue. For informal inquiries and abstract submissions, please email

Deadline for Abstracts: July 1st 2022

Deadline for Submissions: September 1st 2022

Ashton Kutcher: One of Hollywood’s Heroes

By Brooke Gibson

Hollywood has facilitated a plethora of cultural influences over the past century. America places high earning actors/actresses on a social pedestal where they are often respected for their work strictly in the industry. These entertainers, often with net worth trending into the millions, use their platforms to broadcast personal beliefs and debut their successes. This is because the media allows this opportunity to be taken. Of course, people in the spotlight want as many supporters as possible to benefit their fanbase; however, does this mean their actions are authentic?

For some of Hollywood’s stars, philanthropic actions may be genuine. Foundations, organizations, and other institutions are often begun for the greater good of society. These stars have the ability to make this happen. One star in particular, Ashton Kutcher, has taken time to work outside of Hollywood’s light to advocate for a social injustice he is passionate about.

Ashton Kutcher is a happy-go-lucky actor with a handful of notable roles, one being Michael Kelso in “That 70’s Show”. Kutcher’s character is a funny, “bad-boy” who pokes fun at many other characters throughout the series. In real life, he is married to his “That 70’s Show” costar Mila Kunis. I consider this to be somewhat heroic because historically Hollywood couples are not able to facilitate a successful marriage in the spotlight; however, this is not why I think he is one of Hollywood’s heroes. I believe that his work to combat the sexual exploitation of girls globally is one of the most noble and selfless actions Hollywood has seen.

In 2012, Kutcher (along with other American actress Demi Moore) co-founded the organization “Thorn” which has been working to develop and perfect technology to identify victims of trafficking. Their goal is to locate and prevent child victims of sexual exploitation while simultaneously educating the public on this global issue. One may wonder, what makes this action so heroic and worthy of attention? Well, one reason is that Kutcher simply does NOT receive attention for this. He does all of his work voluntarily outside of the Hollywood spotlight, making this contribution to society truly genuine and selfless. Kutcher did not start this organization to benefit his own platform, but for the benefit of children globally.

Some people consider heroes to be “risk takers”. In this case, I do believe that Kutcher has taken many risks and sacrifices to be a part of this program. He has taken the time to fund this technology (which was offered to law enforcement for free, meaning there was no personal gain), testify in courts, and balance his family and career life. This level of personal sacrifice is something that I believe to be incredibly heroic.

The transparency of Kutcher in this project is another trait I believe qualifies Kutcher as a hero. While he clearly advocates for the eradication of child trafficking, he does not pride himself on his success so far and is continuing to work to combat this issue. When one types “Ashton Kutcher” into a search engine, his filmography, family life, and social media is presented. He does not try to let the whole world know what he is doing so they are on his side. He avoids the press in order to prevent the abuse of his power as a star in Hollywood, which is not something other colleagues have followed.

Ashton Kutcher can be considered a hero inside and out of Hollywood’s spotlight. His voluntary and selfless actions as a celebrity are made for the exceptional good of society are incredibly heroic. Thorn aims to find the solution to eradicate all child sex trafficking and has saved numerous amounts of children with its technology. Stars in Hollywood should aim to follow in the footsteps of celebrities like Ashton Kutcher who aim to make a difference not only in America’s entertainment industry, but globally.

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Brooke Gibson is an undergraduate student at the University of Richmond.  She is enrolled in Scott Allison’s Heroes & Villains course and composed this essay as part of her course requirement