Category Archives: Narrative Medicine and Health Inequity

These blog posts share my experiences teaching about narrative medicine through HLEQ 430: Narrative Medicine and Health Inequity. This graduate-level course was designed for upper level and post-baccalaureate students at Rhodes College and taught in Spring 2023.

Week 2: Foundations of Narrative Medicine and Health Inequity

After intros and an overview of the syllabus and course schedule, I acknowledged the recent death of Tyre Nichols in our city of Memphis. Prior to class, it was difficult to anticipate what this conversation would look like with students that I had not met yet, but I wanted to make space for grappling with yet another incidence of police brutality in our nation.

The students launched into a discussion about the readings and specifically the AMA table about key principles and associated terminology (see below).

*Watch Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care.

*Read Part II of Rita Charon, Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness (pgs 65-104).

*Read AMA Advancing Health Equity: Guide to Language, Narrative and Concepts Intro, Part 1: Health equity language, and Part 2: Why narratives matter (pgs 4-27).

Some highlights of our conversation include:

-Person-first language. i.e. the impact of “underserved communities” vs. “communities that have been underserved by/with limited access to ____”

-Difference between when people choose to identify with certain words vs. when labels are imposed on them by others (i.e. victim, survivor)

-Does altering language affect clinical care and/or outcomes? Does raising awareness about the importance of person-first language actually alter patient-provider relationships?

We discussed ways that people are “made vulnerable” and about what is meant by the idea that “we need to change the narrative,” and we closed with a reflective writing exercise about experiences with healthcare.

My Week 2 lesson plan and slides are included below:

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Week 1: E-Introductions due to MLK Day

Since we observed MLK day and did not meet in person for our first day of class, Week 1 included completing the following readings and reflective writing assignment. Each student introduced themselves, reflected on the following prompt, and responded to a classmate’s post on our online discussion board. Haikus were the most popular creative writing form!

January 16 – MLK Day, No Class. E-introductions.

*Watch Pecha Kucha on Narrative Medicine

*Start Cultural Intelligence Assessment (due 2/6)

*Part I from Rita Charon, Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness (pgs 1-62)


Write a brief introduction to self. Who are you? Why are you taking this class? What do you hope to learn about this semester? What are you hoping to do in the future?


Choose one of the three writing exercises introduced in the pecha kucha. Write a brief letter, a haiku, or a 55 word poem sharing something on your mind related to health (examples include reflecting on current events or media related to medicine, personal or professional experiences in medical settings, creating a work of fiction, thoughts related to the readings).

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From Clinic to the Classroom: Teaching about Narrative Medicine and Health Inequity at Rhodes College

After a hiatus during medical training (med school, residency, first year fellowship), I am excited to be back in the classroom teaching about narrative medicine and health inequity at Rhodes College this semester! The course is designed for post-baccalaureate Health Equity students and advanced undergraduate students, and I will share my teaching materials here, just like old times. I look forward to teaching alongside my clinical duties as a combined fellow in pediatric hematology/oncology and hospice and palliative medicine.

HLEQ 430 introduces the field of Narrative Medicine and the role of narrative in raising awareness of health inequity. Illness narratives illuminate patient experiences with social determinants of health, and clinician narratives provide insight into healthcare perspectives on inequity. Through a close study of medical narratives, we will delve into systems of health inequality, implicit bias, systemic racism and sexism, narrative ethics, death and dying, mental illness, disability, and more. Students will have the opportunity to engage with narrative medicine theory and discourse as well as to create their own forms of narrative. This course is designed for individuals interested in health equity, medicine, nursing, public health, medical anthropology, clinical psychology, other health-related fields to gain an interdisciplinary understanding and humanistic perspective of medicine through the lens of narrative.

Course requirements will include weekly readings and reflections, class participation, a mid-term narrative analysis paper, and a final project of narrative creation.

Image courtesy of Tara Winstead.


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