What makes a good physician? A person who properly diagnoses and then cures their patients? What if we told you that there’s a third vital characteristic of good physicians – physicians who listen to – and attempt to understand – their patients’ stories. Education philosopher Paolo Freire noted back in 1963, that: “A careful analysis of the teacher-student relationship[…]reveals its fundamentally narrative character. This relationship involves a narrating Subject (the teacher) and patient, listening objects (the students). […] Education is suffering from narration sickness.”
Similar observations have been made about clinical encounters between health care providers and patients. In medical environments, “Narrative Medicine”—clinical engagement with patients’ stories, and care for equity and responsivity in the clinical narrative–developed as a remedy. In this Duke Health Humanities Lab sponsored monthly lunch group at the Student Wellness Center, humanities professor Deborah Jenson and Student Health Director John Vaughn welcome students for engagement with health—health as a continuous, developmental life state, inclusive of, yet not defined by, experiences of health problems, treatments, and outcomes. Jenson and Vaughn, along with guest sessions with Harvard MPH student Jonathan Hill-Rorie, HHL manager Katherine Berko and other visitors, will provide literary and media (podcasts, video, song, film) cues for discussion, reflection, and community-building around health: health as wellness, health as illness or disability, health as care and remedy; health as your future, present, and past; and of course, health as narrative. Lunch is served, with the menu posted on the Health Humanities Lab website the Friday before the event.
To learn more about what narrative medicine is, read the Duke Chronicle’s coverage of this series.