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The Narrative Bridge: Connecting through the Health Humanities

Tuesday's Agenda

Tuesday, February 25, 2014




Concurrent sessions

‘Follow Your Heart’: Medical Readers’ Theatre Workshop
Stono Ballroom

Six volunteers will read “Follow Your Heart,” a story about Hannah, the widow of a man whose organs have been transplanted into several recipients. She seeks solace from her grief by finding the man who has her husband’s transplanted heart. The original title of “Whither Thou Goest” references the Story of Ruth and Naomi, bringing the idea of loyalty and devotion into the mix. Hannah, a fundamentalist Christian who believes in the resurrection of the flesh, is confused. If her husband’s heart resides in another, is she a widow or not? She must listen to it one last time so that she can go on with her life. A discussion follows on the emotional, spiritual, and ethical complications faced by organ donor families and transplant recipients, highlighting emerging issues. Drama, an exquisite vehicle for humanistic training, leads to productive dialogue about the deepest concerns of our time.

Selzer, Richard. "Follow Your Heart." Medical Readers’ Theater. Ed. Todd L. Savitt. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2002: 102-119.
Stripling, Mahala Yates. “Robin Cook’s Coma.” Bioethics and Medical Issues in Literature (U Cal Medical Humanities P, 2013): 37-46. An historical and cultural analysis of the transplant industry.

Mahala Yates Stripling, PhD
Independent Scholar
Fort Worth, Texas

Self-image in the Electratic Age: Avatars and Health

In the last few years, articles of how our “virtual” selves, our “avatars”, can influence people’s real lives have moved from academic publications to main stream news. Articles like Jacque Wilson’s 2012 CNN Health article Virtual reality: Avatar inspires gamer to hit the gym are becoming more common place. According to Gregory Ulmer, an Avatar is a virtual representation of an identity or aspect of self. One could call it an electratic-ego. It becomes a virtual extension of us, a virtual body of sorts. In the first chapter of her book Assuming a Body, Gayle Salamon discusses Paul Schilder’s idea of the psychic and physical bodies. Schilder’s body image and Ulmer’s Avatar seem very similar. Both are constructions of an individual based upon social interactions and experience which change over time. Avatar introduces separation and connection simultaneously, and opens us up to a different attitude on how things stand with ourselves. Avatars help us to self-encounter in a way that can bring about a change of mind, a new behavior, or a different orientation through stepping away from actuality into potentiality. Can we utilize Avatar as a therapeutic tool? Can the virtual-self reshape the physical-self? This is a new area in health humanities we have only begun to explore.

John Jay Jacobs, Visiting Lecturer
Department of Graphic Communications
Clemson University

Rewriting the ‘Problem’ Narrative: Teaching Narrative Competence to Physician Assistant Students

Whereas most U.S. medical schools have medical humanities training in their curricula, incorporating the medical humanities into physician assistant education is challenging because of the compressed curriculum. PA training at Wake Forest School of Medicine is 24 months long and has not had a humanities component until the class of 2016 began their studies this past June. In one of the sessions developed for this class, students listen to a brief background lecture that introduces the concepts of narrative medicine and narrative competence according to the definitions developed by Dr. Rita Charon. Next, the students discuss a story from practice – “The Second Time Around” by physician assistant Brian Maurer – with the goal of understanding the ways in which the provider/narrator embodies narrative competence. Finally, the students rewrite the narrative from their previous week’s inquiry-based learning case to illustrate how the case might have unfolded if the patient’s health care providers had acted with narrative competence. Workshop attendees will be asked to rewrite a problematic case from their own experience with the same objective: How might the outcome have been different if the governing principle had been narrative competence?

Tanya Gregory, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Physician Assistant Studies
Wake Forest School of Medicine
Winston-Salem, NC

‘Other People’s Stories’: Constructing Personal Narratives with First-Year Medical Students

This session draws on our experience using stories to teach medical humanities to first-year medical students in a Personal Narrative Reflection pilot course offered at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. Through both theoretical and practical work, participants will learn the value of this approach and will have time to consider its relevance and potential applications for their own contexts. We will share lessons learned and talk about the positive impact that telling and listening to narratives had on our students. We will discuss ways to effectively teach this type of content and how it fits into the larger picture of medical school curricula. We will also provide sample readings, prompts, citations, and suggestions for further exploration. Most importantly, participants will be immersed in the process via writing exercises, as narrative work is most powerful when actively experienced rather than passively described. Please arrive prepared to write and to share your writing with your peers.

Aaron Hurwitz, MEd
University of Vermont

Lieutenant Jared Sutherland, MD
United States Navy’s Medical Corp

Tania Bertsch, MD
College of Medicine
University of Vermont


Outburst Sessions

The Hospital and the Blues: “St James Infirmary” and the Existential Condition of Illness and Death
Stono Ballroom

Take a 20-minute musical break that involves both a brief deconstruction and a longer experience of “stomping the blues.” The blues is a folk musical/literary form that has been used by generations to both confront and subvert suffering, illness, and death. Come listen and learn how the blues paradoxically immerses you in suffering while at the same time making you feel better for the experience.

Shannon Richards-Slaughter, PhD
Assistant Professor, Center for Academic Excellence/Writing Center
Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, SC

Flash Poem: Poetic Writing Outburst

This “outburst” session will facilitate participants to engage in a brief practice of wild mind writing, and after to select a “poetic gem” from their text. With the poetic phrase written on paper, the group will use a participatory and active process to assemble the Flash Poem. We will conclude by reading the completed poem aloud. Participants will then gather their poetic phrase and disperse. This activity will stage a lively releasing of the writer within and build coherence among diverse individuals.

Chris Osmond, PhD
Leadership & Educational Studies
Appalachian State University

Sharon Cumbie PhD, RN, CS
Department of Nursing
University of West Georgia


Featured Poetry Reading
Stono Ballroom

Nurses: Writing from the Heart

Why do nurses write creatively about their patients and about their own reactions to the joys and tragedies inherent in caring for others? How do nurses translate the mysterious moments they share with patients into narratives that transcend those moments? And how do nurse writers build and sustain a community of support? Between the Heartbeats: Poetry and Prose by Nurses, the first international anthology of nurses’ writing, edited by Cortney Davis and Judy Schaefer, was published in 1995 and followed in 2003 by “Intensive Care: More Poetry and Prose by Nurses.” The editors and the nurses represented in these publications have gone on to create a “family” of nurse writers. In this hour-long session, award-winning nurse writers and anthology contributors Jeanne Bryner, Cortney Davis, Veneta Masson, Muriel Murch, and Judy Schaefer will present brief readings of their work and discuss how they have encouraged the creative writing of nurses both in the US and abroad. Our session will be lively and informative; it will also be an historic moment, bringing together those responsible for nurses’ voices first being heard—and then fostered—within the field of narrative medicine.

Cortney Davis, RN, MA
Unaffiliated poet, writer and workshop leader

Judy Schaefer, RN, MA
Member, The Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine
College of Medicine
Penn State University

Jeanne Bryner, RN
Vlad Pediatrics/ Hiram College Center for Literature, Medicine, and Biomedical Humanities

Muriel Murch, RN, BSN
KWMR West Marin Community Radio

Veneta Masson, RN, MA
Sage Femme Press


Break/Book Sale
Stono Ballroom


Lunch and Featured Speaker
Stono Ballroom

Tellin’ ‘We’ Stories: Humanities, Narratives, and Deep Insights

J. Herman Blake, PhD
Recipient of Six Honorary Degrees and Two Presidential Medals
Humanities Scholar-in-Residence
Professor of Health Professions and Dental Medicine
Medical University of South Carolina


Break/Book Sale


Concurrent Sessions

Reflecting on Women’s Health through Film, Literature, and Shadowing

In 2013, students from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine participated in an optional elective consisting of 5 sessions centered on topics in women’s health, with assigned readings and films exploring narratives in illness and disease. Topics included the historical treatment of women and illness, abortion, sexuality and identity, childbirth, infertility, and reproductive illness. The elective also included structured shadowing time at an OB/Gyn clinic. Through in-class discussions, students reflected on the illness narratives encountered through film, literature, shadowing, and creating their own narratives. Students were evaluated with quantitative measures for empathy at the beginning and end of the elective, as well as through a qualitative survey at the end of the elective. In this session, we will describe our experiences and student responses; show a short film relating to health/illness and have a group discussion about salient themes; and facilitate an interactive writing exercise related to the short film or a related prompt.

Lori-Linell C. Hollins, MD
Assistant Professor, Reproductive Biology
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
Division Director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility
Metrohealth Medical Center

Mansi Shah, MS2
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

HPU LifeLines: Narrative Medicine in the Undergraduate Service Learning Classroom

Could poetry help us heal? Integrating narrative medicine into the undergraduate service learning classroom offers students and community partners a unique opportunity to heal one another through the simple act of storytelling. HPU LifeLines provides firsthand clinical practice that enables students to “recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by stories of illness.” HPU LifeLines is not an internship or simply volunteering – it is a pedagogical model that deepens students’ understanding of narrative medicine through real world therapeutic experiences. By leading poetry workshops in local assisted living facilities, students bring theory to life. HPU LifeLines enriches the community and advances students’ thinking about the ethical implications of narrative medicine, while emphasizing listening and empathy to necessitate holistic healing. A reflective writing activity (using that any participants with smartphones, laptops, or iPads will be able to access during the presentation will be included.

Allison S. Walker, MFA
Instructor, Department of English
High Point University

Narratives of Reconciliation and Surprise: Connecting Senior Citizens with the University through a Community Writing Project

When the Center for Writing Excellence (CWE), Montclair State University’s writing center, piloted “The Seminar for Lifelong Learners” in 2012, our aim was to create a community bridge program that promotes equal access to higher education for local senior citizens. During the eight-week summer program, a group of women, ages 75-94, read and discussed the same nonfiction book that Montclair State required incoming first-year students to read for its common book program. Participants in the Seminar for Lifelong Learners also learned personal writing strategies that helped them to craft memoirs, which they shared in a public reading. Women who attended the same social group for decades said that workshopping each others’ narratives helped them to finally know each other. They reported better quality of life and set new personal goals. The women saw writing as therapeutic, helping them to reconcile experiences from their lives. In this presentation, we will share their memoirs and video clips of workshops and public readings. We will also discuss how their narratives about aging, mature romance, and coping with family members’ deaths helped the CWE to incorporate research on healthy aging and cognitive neuropsychology into the seminar’s design for subsequent years. Audience members will have opportunities to brainstorm and share their own experiences with community writing, interdisciplinary frameworks, and the surprise found in narratives.

Lenny Grant, Writing Consultant
Center for Writing Excellence
Montclair State University
PhD Candidate, Virginia Tech

Alicia Yi Remolde, Assistant Director
Center for Writing Excellence
Montclair State University


Concurrent Sessions

Caring for the Whole Patient: A Discussion with Students, Residents, and Faculty of the Gold Humanism Foundation’s MUSC Chapter
Stono Ballroom

Students and residents from the Medical University of South Carolina Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society will host a discussion about the importance of maintaining empathy and compassion in training and reflecting on what humanism means to them as they learn to take care of and develop ongoing relationships with their patients. Discussion leaders will describe different methods they employ to maintain humanism such as critical reflection, understanding experiential learning, employing mindfulness, and developing writing skills through the narrative principles, and highlight clinical dilemmas to demonstrate how empathy and compassion helped create resolutions.

Ashley Duckett, MD
Assistant Professor, General Internal Medicine
Medical University of South Carolina

Leonie Gordon, MD
Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development
Medical University of South Carolina

Patricia Geraty McBurney, MD, MSCR
Associate Professor, Division of General Pediatrics
Medical University of South Carolina

Asklepius and the Wounded Healer

The symbol of Asklepius is found on physician’s coats (both allopathic and osteopathic); however, most physicians and healthcare workers are not aware of the anthropological evolution of the cult of Asklepius. During this session, participants will learn about the historical and medical significance of Asklepius as his lineage is traced from birth to the creation of dream healing temples. In addition, they will also discuss and learn how to create their own dream healing sanctuaries.

Janet Lynn Roseman, PhD, R-DMT
Assistant Professor, Medical Education
Nova Southeastern College of Osteopathic Medicine

Bridging Estrangement through Narrative: Interdisciplinary Insights for Undergraduate Professional Education

“What can stories about your vocation teach me about mine?” For three years, our institution’s Honors College has offered an interdisciplinary seminar to undergraduate professional students on “Narrative and the Caring Professions.” A broad definition of the “caring professions” draws a group of astounding diversity, including future practitioners of medicine, dentistry, nursing, counseling, occupational therapy, physical therapy, nutrition, social work, and teaching. The course follows Charon (2006), who finds that narrative work develops in students the ability to “adopt multiple and contradictory points of view” (p. 194), and emulates the Maine Humanities Council’s “Humanities at the Heart of Health Care” model for facilitating narrative practice among health care workers (Bonebakker, 2003). Data collected from personal reflection and class transcripts indicate curricular and pedagogical choices that cultivate what Sayantani DasGupta has called “narrative humility” among pre-professionals at masters-granting institutions. We are also coming to understand interdisciplinarity as a precious precondition for the development of empathy and self-care dispositions. We maintain that, despite the professions’ drive to produce in the future practitioner a “new relation to the world” through a “lasting estrangement” between who s/he is becoming and who s/he used to be (Holt, 2004), narrative work can nonetheless empower the student to bring “who s/he is to what s/he does” (Palmer, 2000).

Bonebakker, V. (2003). Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care: A Hospital-Based Reading and Discussion Program Developed by the Maine Humanities Council. Academic Medicine, 78(10), 963-967.
Charon, R. (2006). The self-telling body. Narrative Inquiry, 16(1), 191-200.
DasGupta, S. (2008). Narrative Humility. The Lancet, 371(9617), 980-981.
Holt, T. E. (2004). Narrative Medicine and Negative Capability. Literature and Medicine, 23(2), 318-333.
Palmer, P. J. (2000). Let your life speak: listening for the voice of vocation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Chris Osmond, PhD
Leadership & Educational Studies
Appalachian State University

Sharon Cumbie, PhD, RN, CS
Department of Nursing
University of West Georgia

“The Art of Medicine in Metaphors”: A Collection of Poems and Narratives

James Borton, editor of The Art of Medicine in Metaphors and contributor, Sara Baker, offer a reading and discussion of the power of story in medicine. The narratives we construct about our illness experiences offer grace and understanding as we move through our lives.

James Borton, MA
Coastal Carolina University

Sara T. Baker, MA
Independent Scholar


The Bridge Mosaic—Goodbyes
Stono Ballroom

Enjoy Charleston! Farewell until next time!

All sessions held at The Double Tree by Hilton Hotels in Historic Charleston, 181 Church Street

Please note that slight changes in times and/or sessions may occur. Web site will be updated periodically. Changes will also be indicated in registration materials at the conference.

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