It’s strange to think that I attended and presented at my first conference two years ago to date; I have fond memories of that WMU Medical Humanities Conference as being one of my best presentations yet. This year, I was excited to return to talk about my illness narrative class, Grand Rounds: Exploring the Literary Symptoms of Illness through Narrative, and to discuss the role of illness narratives in pre-health education.
I love medical school, don’t get me wrong, but I miss this. It was so refreshing to have a conversation with humanities enthusiasts about the great educational impact of illness narratives, both from literary and medical perspectives and when considered at various stages in one’s career. It’s been a while since I’ve been so immersed in dialogue about illness narratives, so I enjoyed delving back into it and reflecting on how they’ve got me to where I am today.
It was nice to see some familiar faces in the crowd and to have a diverse group of people, most from humanities backgrounds but everyone with some interest in illness narratives and/or medical education. I decided to structure the session as an interactive discussion since I had more time, which was a bit unconventional at this lecture-based conference. But I think that as a group, we were able to further develop many of our personal thoughts and ideas regarding illness narratives as well as engage and interact with each other more, which I know that I found to be a rewarding and illuminating experience.
WMU lesson plan-Introducing Illness Narratives in Pre-Health Education
WMU Medical Humanities- Grand Rounds
“There is art to medicine as well as science.” -Hippocratic Oath
I find myself thinking about this quote a lot throughout medical school. It reminds me of what initially fascinated me about medicine. While following the pre-medical track lends itself to a scientific foundation for medicine, my non-traditional experiences illuminated the art of medicine to me.
Last year, I found my place at The Examined Life: Writing, Humanities, and the Art of Medicine conference. I was excited to be surrounded by so many other people interested and actively working at the intersections of literature and medicine. These are people who are passionate about all things related to healing and medicine, reading and writing, learning and educating. And I am thrilled to have the opportunity to attend this conference once again, one week from today.
Last year, around this time, I was teaching a mini-course called Grand Rounds: Exploring the Literary Symptoms of Illness through Narrative. This year, I will be leading a discussion forum about this course and about what implications it may have for the use of illness narratives in pre-health education. As I’ve been preparing for our session and sifting through course materials and relevant scholarship, I’m reminded of how much I miss teaching. It won’t be quite the same as leading one of my discussion classes, but I’m really looking forward to the conversations to come.
As a flashback to last year’s presentation: I will also have hard copies of Chronicling Childhood Cancer: A Collection of Personal Stories by Children and Teens with Cancer available for sale this year!
Although I’ve personally been drawn to the stories of people with illness and disability, I also realize that stories in medicine arise from both sides of health care. Albeit it was admittedly strange (given that I am used to being a listener to these stories), I was excited to have the opportunity to tell my own story about my experiences as a medical student and someday health professional.
Inside Stories is an oral narratives project which invites medical students to share their experiences in medical school in the form of brief podcasts published and archived on in-Training, an online medical student community. The curator of these stories, Annie Robinson, makes space for medical students across the country to share experiences that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to share. Moreover, it seems to me as though these stories can serve a similar function as do many online illness narratives by bridging together medical students. These exemplify how stories can be used to create a community, to connect different people who may be going through similar situations in their medical training.
Take a listen! My story about medicine and about my childhood cancer narrative research.