Yesterday I met Peggy Plews-Ogan who directs the Center for Appreciative Practice at my employer, the University of Virginia. Through her I found this lovely resource of personal medical narratives from physicians and doctors-in-training about their experiences. What strikes me about these pieces is the humanity revealed in patients but also their doctors.
The traditional Western medical approach can save lives, but it has too often ignored quality of life. Both patients and doctors are treated as cogs in a system that dispenses prescriptions and procedures without regard to basic needs: patients, for example, need a caring, intentional presence paired with professional expertise; and practitioners need adequate rest, time, and compensation to do their jobs well.
I’ve been working on a health-mystery memoir for the past few years, and recently learned about the Narrative Medicine movement (e.g., Columbia University Narrative Medicine program). Physicians trained in this approach are taught to take a more personal approach to health care and listen to their patient’s stories about their health. These stories contain powerful clues on the journey to healing. But both a trusting patient and a listening, present practitioner are needed for those clues to be discovered.
This movement and resources like this inspire me because I’ve learned firsthand how telling our stories can help us through hard times and find our own best selves.
PS. Some additional questions including counterpoint to Narrative Medicine.