Our 2020 program will be held in two parts:

  • An Opening Weekend of 9 sessions, and…
  • …more sessions throughout the month of October and November (added as they become available).

A-la-carte Registration: Due to the novel coronavirus, 2020 will feature a series of virtual sessions, and you’ll build your own program by selecting individual events to attend. Registration is $15 for most sessions. Our featured presentation is free. Guests register for each session individually.

All session will be conducted virtually, and details will be emailed to registered guests during the day prior to the session. Registration for all sessions will close at noon the day before the session.

Program overview

Scroll down for descriptions and registration links.

Skillbuilder Plus Sessions:

These longer format workshops will increase your creative skills and joy in your work.

  • 11/18 Now What? How to Get Published. With Dr. Carol Scott-Conner
  • TBD Humans Touch: Doctors, Patients and An Artful Approach to Co-Healing. With Cyraina Johnson-Roullier, MA, PhD; Amy Davis-Bruner, MS
  • 10/27 Improv’ Your Writing. With Dr. Hilton Koppe

Main Sessions



10/8 Inklings: Going Home with a New First Draft 11/3  Writing to Save Lives and Other Acts of Healing
10/8 Teaching Advocacy Through Narrative Medicine 11/7 Persistence of Memory: Investigating Polio Stories
10/8  Featured Presentation: Rana Awdish 11/10 The Hospice Doctor’s Widow: A Love Story with Art and Some Practical Insights
10/9 Developing Story-Based Content that Influences a Culture of Safety in Medicine 11/14 Introducing The Appendix Art Journal: A Multimodal Interprofessional Exploration of Art by Health Professional Students
10/9 Wounded Storytellers: Responding to Stories of Trauma 11/14 Metaphor in Medicine: Using Poetry to Build Healthcare Professionals’ Tolerance of Uncertainty and Reflective Capacity
10/9 The Healer’s Burden: An Exploration of Professional Grief 11/21 Using First-Person Narratives of Neurodiversity to Enhance Communication and Understanding
10/10 Art for Life: How our narrative medicine group uses art to bypass the tyranny of linear processes and humanize the medical journey
10/10 Sustaining a Literary and Arts Journal: Auscult at the Medical College of Wisconsin
10/10 Metaphor, Illness and Meaning: The Aesthetics and Ethics of Writing Pain
10/13 Loss: building undergraduate empathy for the unknown – intentional learning from client narratives
10/17 Global Health Parallel Charting
10/17 The Aseemkala Initiative: Using Traditional Dance to Narrate Stories of Women in Medicine
10/20 How to Write Medically: A Creative Writing Workshop for Trainees
10/24 CANCELLED: It sounds messy. It sounds MSsy: poetic inquiry as a methodology for exploring lived experience of multiple sclerosis
10/24 Embodied Writing: A Novel Method of Interpreting Illness Through Creative Writing
10/27 Using Electropsychedelic and Neural Biofeedback Loops
10/26 In Conversation with Samuel Shem
10/31 Same Events/Different Narratives
10/31 Learning to write frankly about ourselves, our training and our profession

Full Program

Inklings: Going Home with a New First Draft

October 8 @ 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm CDT $15

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The purpose of this workshop is to put the inkling of a new idea for a piece of writing onto paper. Anyone wishing to try a hand at a first draft is welcome. All genres including poetry, essays, editorials, fiction, non-fiction ad infinitum are fair game. We will write something new for about one third of the session and then read our embryonic work and offer only constructive comments for the remaining time. In medical settings we are often pressed for time, with meaningful exercises transforming a patient or professional experience in minutes. I want to expand the amount of time at this conference that we give ourselves to actually get a new idea onto paper and to provide an encouraging environment for initial feedback.

Serena Fox MD (Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center) is an intensive care physician at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center, NYC. She believes deeply that poetry and the Humanities have essential roles in the teaching of medicine, ethics, human rights and care-giving. Her poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and the Western Humanities Review. She is poetry editor for the Examined Life Journal, and author of ‘Night Shift’, 2009. Contact

Teaching Advocacy Through Narrative Medicine

October 8 @ 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm CDT $15

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Understanding the social determinants of health and advocating for change is crucial to providing appropriate care to all populations. Pediatric patients are frequently the first victims of social injustice. Hence the ACGME now requires advocacy training in pediatric graduate education. To address this need, Baylor College of Medicine developed a special track within its pediatric residency to teach and promote advocacy: the LEAD program. At the request of the program directors, we utilized narrative medicine principles to build this novel curriculum. Over five sessions, the authors facilitated discussion and provided education to the trainees and course directors on various foundational elements and skills related to narrative medicine. Warm-up exercises were provided at each session, designed to ‘stretch’ mental muscles by either encouraging participants to reduce a complex idea into just a few words, or to describe a non-written (visual or auditory) prompt as thoroughly as possible. Each session concluded with time for free writing and voluntary sharing. For the inaugural year, the authors applied an overarching narrative construct based loosely on Joseph Campbell’s, Hero With a Thousand Faces. Session themes included “Finding Identity,” “The Journey,” “Challenges and Transformations,” “Finding Purpose,” and “Returning with the Elixir.” After implementing the program, cumulative qualitative evaluations were analyzed. Trainees expressed overwhelming satisfaction with the format, time commitment and activities associated with the advocacy curriculum. The program continues and is currently in its 3rd year. We propose that this is an effective method to teach advocacy to pediatric residents.

Amanda Ruth MD (Baylor College of Medicine) attended Wake Forest Medical school. She completed both her residency in pediatrics and fellowship in pediatric critical care at Emory University. She is currently an assistant professor in pediatric critical care at Baylor College of Medicine. Her research interests include extracorporeal support, anticoagulation, and medical humanities. Contact

Daniel Mahoney MD (Baylor College of Medicine) earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, FL. He did his fellowship in palliative care at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He is currently an assistant professor in pediatric palliative care at Baylor College of Medicine. He has published on pain management in pediatric chronic illness. Contact

Gwen Erkonen MD MME (Baylor College of Medicine) completed her residency in pediatrics, fellowship in pediatric critical care, and masters of medical education at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She is currently an assistant professor in pediatric critical care at Baylor College of Medicine. Prior to attending medical school, she was a special education teacher in Los Angeles and Chicago. Contact

Featured Presentation: In Conversation with Rana Awdish

October 8 @ 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm CDT Free and open to the public

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Rana Awdish MD (Henry Ford Hospital) is the author of the critically-acclaimed, best-selling memoir, In Shock, based on her own critical illness. She has been interviewed by The Times, The Telegraph, NPR, The BBC, and the Today Show online. She is the Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and a practicing Critical Care Physician. She lectures to physicians, health care leaders and medical schools both internationally and across the US on the necessity of compassionate care. She also serves as the Medical Director of Care Experience for the Henry Ford Health System. Contact

Developing Story-Based Content that Influences a Culture of Safety in Medicine

October 9 @ 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm CDT $15

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Preventable medical harm is a global issue affecting everyone around the world. The World Health Organization found patient harm to be the 14th leading cause of the global disease burden, comparable to tuberculosis and malaria. It is the third leading cause of death in the United States though still unrecognized as such by the Centers for Disease Control. Communication and the medical culture are often at the root cause of medical harm, leaving room for improvement in both areas. The MedStar Health Institute for Quality & Safety has been developing stories and narratives of both patients and providers to connect the heart and the head of those delivering care, improve patient engagement and the delivery of patient-centered care, and aid in the adoption of a high-reliability culture. By attending this session, attendees will: 1) Understand where stories and narratives are being used within healthcare to build a transparent culture of safety; 2) Know where to access existing tools and resources that can serve as a model or starting point; and, 3) Learn ways to acquire and shape stories from within their existing health system or patient population that can be operationalized to inspire internal culture change.

Tracy Granzyk MS MFA (MedStar Health Institute for Quality & Safety) is a writer, filmmaker and healthcare leader working to improve health equity and patient-provider relationships through stories. Tracy is Executive Director of the Center for Healthcare Narrative at the MedStar Institute for Quality & Safety, and Editor-in-Chief, Please See Me, an online literary magazine for healthcare narratives. Contact

Wounded Storytellers: Responding to Stories of Trauma

October 9 @ 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm CDT $15

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This hands-on workshop will use sample texts to discuss assigning and responding to writing about the “tough stuff”—cancer, hospice, the ICU, and mental health diagnoses. Participants will consider what Arthur Frank has called “the wounded storyteller” as she appears in writing about illness and trauma. We are two writing teachers in the medical humanities and a pharmacist turned writer, and we are interested in exploring how we have written about our own medical and mental health related events, as well as how we respond to students and others who are writing about trauma and illness. We will offer suggestions for telling a traumatic or difficult story as well as reflecting on how to respond to “wounded storytellers.” While writing about illness and trauma is potentially “healing” for the writer, we will consider the limits of healing, the challenges of revision, and the possible consequences of writing as retraumatizing. We are particularly concerned with the ethics of responding to stories about illness and how the subject position of writers—their intersectionality and race, class, gender, sexualities, and dis/abilities—affect the response. For example, Black women have worse medical outcomes in part because their stories are not heard (McMillan Cotton and others). By writing our own difficult stories, what can we learn about listening to other voices, responding to trauma narratives, and embracing empathy? Workshop members will be invited to respond to sample essays, raise concerns about disclosure, and leave with ideas about effective response strategies and their own writing.

Ann Green PhD (Saint Joseph’s University) is a professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. She is the recipient of the 2017 Outstanding Leader in Experiential Education award from the National Society of Experiential Education and the Lindback Lifetime Teaching Award, and she teaches writing and service-learning courses in narrative medicine, environmental justice, and race, class, and gender. She has published in College Composition and Communication, The Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, and a number of edited collections. She has taught immersion courses in Ireland and China, and Life and Its Boundaries, a course in the Inside/Out Prison Exchange Program, for both incarcerated and traditional students. Contact

Elizabeth Kukielka PharmD (Patient Safety Authority) is a Patient Safety Analyst on the Data Science and Research team at the Patient Safety Authority. In this role, she evaluates the literature and analyzes patient safety data collected from various sources, including PA-PSRS, with the goal of synthesizing this information to develop strategies for improving patient safety throughout Pennsylvania. Liz is responsible for authoring articles for the Authority’s peer-reviewed publication, Patient Safety. She also serves as an information resource for healthcare facilities in Pennsylvania. Before joining the Authority, Liz worked for a year as a promotional medical writer for numerous publications, including Pharmacy Times and the American Journal of Managed Care. In that role, she developed manuscripts to educate healthcare providers about medications and health conditions. Prior to that, Liz spent 10 years working as a community pharmacist and pharmacy manager. In the pharmacy, she enjoyed building relationships with her patients and providing them with the tools and support they needed to maximize the benefits of their medication therapy. Her areas of expertise within the pharmacy included immunization delivery, diabetes management, medication therapy management, and pharmacy compounding. While working as a pharmacist, Liz earned her MA in writing studies from Saint Joseph’s University and a certificate in medical writing and editing from the University of Chicago. She is currently pursuing her MS in biomedical writing at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. Liz is a registered pharmacist with authorization to administer injectables in Pennsylvania and Delaware, and she is a board-certified geriatric pharmacist. Contact

The Healer’s Burden: An Exploration of Professional Grief

October 9 @ 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm CDT $15

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Join us in opening up a much needed discussion about professional grief—the personal reactions healthcare professionals experience when patients die. In a healthcare culture that discourages vulnerability and demands attention be diverted almost immediately to the next patient, such grief often remains hidden and unexpressed, leading to bereavement overload and burnout. The Healer’s Burden: Stories and Poems of Professional Grief (in press, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine) shines light in the dark corners of grief, offering discussion questions and writing prompts to aid individuals and groups in exploring and expressing their own experiences with grief. Contributing writers will read excerpts from their poems and stories; editors will guide participants in writing prompts and discussion. Don’t miss this exclusive preview of the book that Dr. Kenneth Doka, renowned leader in the field of death education and counseling, calls “a mandated read for seasoned and beginning health careers now working in that thin space between life and death.”

Gina Pribaz, MFA, MA, is a clinical associate in the Departments of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, where she teaches creative writing. She has developed health humanities, arts, and ethics programming at a nonprofit healthcare system in Peoria, IL. She holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Northwestern University, a Master of Arts in Literature from the University of Iowa, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame. Her essays have appeared in Body and Soul: Narrative of Healing from Ars Medica, Tampa Review, Brain,ChildMagazine, and elsewhere. She volunteers with the National Organization for Arts in Health.

Melissa Fournier, LMSW, works as the Program Director for Michael’s Place, a nonprofit bereavement support center in Traverse City, MI, where she designs and facilitates grief support programs including Writing Through Loss, an ongoing writing workshop aimed at helping individuals shape their grief narrative. Melissa has worked in adult, pediatric, and perinatal hospice, mental health, and has been a featured speaker on end-of-life, bereavement, and ethics. She holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Michigan, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Wayne State University, and a Certificate of Professional Achievement in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in Dunes Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine, and Medical Literary Messenger. She is co-editor of AFTER: Stories about Loss and What Comes Next(Barnwood Books, 2019) and author of Abruptio (The Poetry Box, 2019).

Art for Life: How our narrative medicine group uses art to bypass the tyranny of linear processes and humanize the medical journey

October 10 @ 2:30 pm – 3:45 pm CDT $15

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Illness is often stressful and challenging for patients, families, and health care providers, accompanied by intense emotions of sadness, self-doubt, blame, shame, guilt and regret. Medical settings are inherently disempowering, often set up to save lives quickly and discharge patients, without consideration of the emotions that often arise when patients and families encounter illness. Systems organized in favor of collaborative journeys toward health can create better outcomes. Creative writing, live music making, and storytelling provide opportunities to optimize emotional wellbeing for patients and health care providers, increase personal power and agency, build resilience, improve care and reduce stress.

For the past seven years, members of a multidisciplinary group of doctors, nurses, patients, music therapists, poets, psychologists, Child Life specialists, chaplains, and administrative staff have met monthly, incorporating creative techniques using a narrative medicine approach. Members have grown together as a community and have brought this experience into their professional and personal lives. The outcome has been magical. We completed a study using creative writing in clinical practice, and found this approach significantly lowered stress and fostered communication for patients and health care providers. In this experiential workshop, members of our narrative medicine group will engage you in the structure of our process, using an opening and closing meditation, music, art, close reading, and writing. You will leave this workshop as part of a larger community, and will learn how to start and nurture a similar group in your own setting.

Marjorie Getz PhD (Advocate Children’s Hospital) is Co-Director of Narrative Medicine at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Chicago. She co-directs the Narrative Medicine group at her hospital, and works collaboratively with pediatric residents, Child Life, Pastoral Care, Psychology, music therapy, palliative care. The group meets monthly, using writing, music, meditation and relaxation exercises to promote healing. She is also a learning and behavior specialist at ACH. In 1984 she established Educational Consultation and Evaluation Services, in the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Behavioral Pediatrics, with a specialty in testing and school advocacy for children with complex medical conditions. Contact

Sheri Reda MA MAR MLI (Flow and Moment, LLC; Advocate Healthcare Narrative Medicine Committee) is a writer, presenter, and performer with more than 30 years’ experience in education and publishing and nearly as many years in performance. She is a certified master life-cycle celebrant who brings storytelling and ritual to individually designed weddings, funerals, and other life passages. She In addition to working with education clients nationwide, Sheri offers workshops and seminars on narrative medicine and nonviolent communications and is a member of the Narrative Medicine Steering Committee at Advocate Healthcare in Park Ridge, Illinois. Sheri also serves on the board of the CG Jung Center, in Evanston, works at Wilmette Public Library, and tells stories as part of Chicago’s live-lit community. Her essays, poems, and stories are available through the Locofo Chaps imprint of Moria Press, Literate Ape online journal, and other publications in the United States and the UK. Contact

Susan Cotter-Schaufele CMT (Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care) is a board certified music therapist, educator and consultant, has worked with patients, families and healthcare providers for nearly 30 years. Currently serving with Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care, Susan designs interventions with live and recorded music to increase physical, emotional and spiritual comfort for those facing health challenges, as well as those providing health care. Contact

David Thoele MD (Advocate Children’s Hospital) is Co-Director of Narrative Medicine (NM) and a pediatric cardiologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital. He learned the healing power of writing when his daughter got sick and he experienced the medical system from a parent’s perspective. He created and co-directs the NM group at ACH. The group meets monthly, using writing and meditation to promote healing. He was the Principal Investigator of an IRB project examining the effectiveness of writing to reduce stress for families and health care providers. His work was presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics, at Johns Hopkins, and published in The Permanente Journal. Contact

Sustaining a Literary and Arts Journal: Auscult at the Medical College of Wisconsin

October 10 @ 4:00 pm – 5:15 pm CDT $15

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The Medical College of Wisconsin publishes Auscult, a literary and arts journal, annually. This student-led publication includes stories, poems, and visual art created by individuals from the MCW community. In this session we plant to discuss our latest efforts to produce a sustainable journal, with a focus on increasing submissions. Towards this aim, we have started a new podcast in which we interview contributing authors, read their work aloud, and discuss their creative process and the importance of the humanities in their lives and careers. We will also discuss a book launch event and partnerships with other student organizations on campus. It is our hope that describing our process can provide one example of how to foster a community-wide appreciation for the humanities in the context of medical education.

Alexandra Cohn MSt (Medical College of Wisconsin) is a second year medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin. She is one of the student editors of Auscult. She received her BS in philosophy at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and her MSt in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Oxford. Contact

Nicholas Visser is a second year medical student at the Medical College of Wisconsin and a student editor for the medical humanities journal Auscult. He received his BS in Mathematics and Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Contact:

Metaphor, Illness and Meaning: The Aesthetics and Ethics of Writing Pain

October 10 @ 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm CDT $15

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Pain and illness are inherently individual experiences. The sensations of the body are perhaps the hardest thing to communicate to someone outside ourselves, because those sensations resist our attempts to capture them with words. Because of this, we often turn to metaphor to talk about pain, saying pain is burning or stabbing when neither is literally happening. Expand this out, and we also commonly use metaphors to talk about our experience of pain and our relationship to it. Virginia Woolf wrote that simply being brought down by influenza could reveal the “wastes and deserts of the soul.” While Susan Sontag wrote about “full-blown AIDS”, the phrase that was code for “inevitably fatal” when talking about the disease, but which originally referred to flowers in full bloom. Such metaphors take on particular significance when we consider the sociological studies of George Lakoff and James Geary which suggest that human brains are so attuned to metaphor that we will naturally extend the metaphors we hear and read to form whole frameworks of meaning. In other words, the metaphors we use to describe our pain and others’ could determine whether readers sympathize with or judge people experiencing similar pain or illness. In this panel three writers and educators will talk about the metaphors they have read and used for pain and disease, exploring the aesthetic and ethical ramifications of those metaphors and what the responsibility of the writer might be in using them.

Anne Sand MFA (University of Iowa) is a native of southeast Ohio and earned her MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from the University of Iowa in 2017. Her essays have appeared in venues such as The Normal School, H.O.W., and Nowhere. She currently teaches in the Rhetoric Department at the University of Iowa and is writing a memoir that explores the legacy of trauma across three generations of her family. Contact

Bevin O’Connor MFA (University of Iowa) is a writer currently teaching in the Rhetoric Department at the University of Iowa. She received an MFA in Poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and her work has appeared in print and online in publications such as Denver Quarterly, Palette Poetry, Silver Needle Press, Bird’s Thumb, and elsewhere. Her most recent creative projects lyrically explore how landscape, folklore, and cultural traditions shape understandings of self and expressions of grief. Contact

Elena Carter MFA (University of Iowa) holds an MFA from the University of Iowa, where she teaches in the Rhetoric Department and in Iowa’s Liberal Arts Behind Bars program. Her work has appeared in BuzzFeed, In These Times, and The Rumpus, among other places. Contact

Loss: building undergraduate empathy for the unknown – intentional learning from client narratives.

October 13 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm CDT $15

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This discussion describes how I embed client narratives, including children’s picture books and reflective student writing to lead undergraduate nursing students to explore the multiple nuances of humanity experiencing loss. Being an effective health professional requires empathetic, compassionate practice. It’s a big ask of a sheltered student, to sit with a dying patient, to walk alongside someone with a chronic debilitating disease, to understand what a client means when they say they are fatigued, or why someone might respond angrily when you are helping them. Client narratives help fill the space between student knowledge and client experience. The sharing and discussion of client narratives adds a personal voice to theory, an interpretation of what health and change might look like through a client lens. We will discuss a reflective storytelling model for working the client narrative. The narratives themselves are powerful, but the discussion scaffolded about them turn an emotional touchstone into nursing cues of how to explore meaning and be with the person in partnership – rather than doing things to the patient. The model leads you through these stages, using the narratives as a basis for student critical thinking and reflection.

Josie Crawley MEd, BA, RN is a Principal Lecturer at Otago Polytechnic, School of Nursing, Dunedin, New Zealand. She has been involved in nurse education in both the community and institutions for over 25 years. She is passionate about the power of humanities to transform learning, understanding and practice. Josie is actively involved in narrative research, recently co-editing a collection of Rural Nurse stories of practice. She has published in a variety of academic journals and international publications, spoken at multiple national and international conferences and her poetry has been included in a collection of poems by Aotearoa New Zealand Nurses. IN 2020, Josie has been nominated for an Ako Aotearoa National Teaching Award.

Global Health Parallel Charting

October 17 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CDT $15

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Leaders in residency global health education acknowledge the importance of reflective debriefing for trainees upon their return from rotations in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). There are not yet any widely agreed-upon methods for providing such opportunities. Narrative medicine includes a pedagogy of skills for facilitating reflection on clinical experiences. One such skill is “parallel charting:” a written reflection of how a patient’s story intersects with a clinician’s story and subsequently impacts the care provided. A small group reading and discussion of that piece then takes place in an appropriate setting.In our curriculum, pediatric faculty, experienced in narrative medicine, teamed with global health education leadership at a large pediatric residency training program to offer a structured debrief opportunity utilizing parallel charting following rotations in LMIC. Debriefs included at least one narrative medicine faculty facilitator and one to four pediatric residents.

Residents overwhelmingly found the structured debrief to be a positive experience and expressed interest in additional opportunities to reflect on their clinical experiences.

Structured debriefing based on parallel charting is feasible, and fills a known deficit in residency global health education. Opportunities to expand this project include thematic analysis of experiences residents find most impactful. Challenges include scheduling cohorts of residents upon return from global health electives. This session focuses on the experiences of both faculty and residents in designing and participating in the curriculum, with audience participation and discussion about using reflective writing strategies in global health education.

Theodor Uzamere MD, MHS is a pediatric resident at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital. He is from Stone Mountain,GA and was raised alongside his two younger sisters by his loving mother and father who are originally from Nigeria. Before arriving to Houston for residency, he attended Morehouse College and went on to matriculate through Meharry Medical College where he was nominated and subsequently selected for both the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society and the Gold Humanism Honor Society. He is currently a board member of the Baylor Pediatric Residency Program’s Academy of Resident Educators, a leader in resident branch of the Center for Child Health Policy and Advocacy, and has been named one of five chief residents for the 2021-2022 academic year. Theodor has a passion for helping the underserved and strives to uplift underrepresented minorities through education. Whether it be through leading bible studies on campus or mentoring young black men hoping to be accepted into medical school, Theodor uses his talents and interests to fulfill his purpose of equipping the next generation of underrepresented populations to take on the world.

Daniel Mahoney MD earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, FL. He did his fellowship in palliative care at the University of Tennessee College of Medicine. He is currently an assistant professor in pediatric palliative care at Baylor College of Medicine. He has published on pain management in pediatric chronic illness.

MaridethRus MD, MEd is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics-Critical Care at Northwestern University

Nathan Serazin MD is Assistant Professor of Pediatrics-Critical Care at Northwestern University

Amanda Ruth MD attended Wake Forest Medical school. She completed both her residency in pediatrics and fellowship in pediatric critical care at Emory University. She is currently an assistant professor in pediatric critical care at Baylor College of Medicine. Her research interests include extracorporeal support, anticoagulation, and medical humanities.

The Aseemkala Initiative: Using Traditional Dance to Narrate Stories of Women in Medicine

October 17 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CDT $15

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For centuries, women around the world have used dance to heal themselves, their homes, and their lands. Dance contains intrinsic health-promoting components when performed in its traditional setting, with traditional rituals, community, foods, and the central role of women in each component of the performance. Based on observations and results of interviews regarding the women’s role in three types of traditional dance cultures from Chile, Morocco, and Cambodia, a novel model to approach women’s health through the arts, the Aseemkala Traditional Dance Model, was developed. Instead of relying on translation and perception in global health settings, providers who wish to incorporate culture into programming can experience this culture in traditional dance systems without linguistic barriers and without the traditional power differential that complicates equal collaboration between foreign global providers and local women. This integrative model can be a guiding force to increase awareness of providers when assessing the selection and incorporation of cultural factors into their programming. Usage of this model can also give agency to global women to share their culture through their untranslated movements and to perhaps better collaborate with service providers to create the types of inventions that best suit their realities. This discussion explores the connection between traditional dance and narrative stories in medicine and the development and use of the dance model to transform women’s health.

Shilpa Darivemula MD, MS is the Creative Director of The Aseemkala Initiative and a resident physician in OBGYN The Aseemkala Initiative uses traditional dance to narrate stories of women in medicine. Why traditional dance? There is an inherent healing in traditional dance performances–in the music, lyrics, dance gestures, religious rites, sacred food, and cultural storytelling offered to a connected community audience. Empowering one woman in a community to see her artistic culture as an intrinsic tool for health improvement, we believe, will form the seed of change needed to improve health for indigenous communities. This project also provides an immersive experience for physicians-in-training to understand their patients and themselves through telling stories through their bodies. Shilpa Darivemula is the Creative Director of this organization and a resident physician in OBGYN.

Jenn Pamela Chowdhury is a writer and storyteller who believes in the power of words in bringing communities together. She served as the Content Director for Aseemkala Initiative from 2016-2018.

Kritika Amanjee MBA is a medical student at Albany Medical College and a Bharatanatyam dancer who works with the Aseemkala Initiative to blend medicine and art for women.

Rohini Bhatia MD is a resident in Radiation Oncology at Johns Hopkins and Research and Fellowship Director of the Aseemkala Initiative, choreographing and performing the piece “Chinnamasta;’s DNR Order” on end of life care.

Sriya Bhumi MD, MBA is a medical student who is professionally trained in Bharathanayam and Kuchipudi under the tutelage of Smt. Satya Pradeep at Nritya Saagaram Dance Academy. She serves as Content Director for the Aseemkala Initiative and blends dance and medicine to narrate stories.

How to Write Medically: A Creative Writing Workshop for Trainees

October 20 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm CDT $15

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Writing workshops have recently been used to increase critical reflection in medicine. Yet few studies have looked at the benefits of creative writing, the literary techniques relevant to medicine, and the clinical effect of writing.Aim: Evaluate the effects of creative writing, including empathy, dealing with uncertainty, and technical competence, on medical practitioners. Method: A four-month course was created alongside an author and a neurologist. 11 were selected. Workshops consisted of pre-reading, interactive lectures, writing prompts, and a discussion of the participants’ pieces, for a total of two hours. Data was collected on pretest and post-test skill-level, frequency of writing, confidence, empathy, and perceived relation to patients. Statistics were calculated with SPSS25, with U-Mann Whitney for non-normal distribution. Qualitative data of open-ended questions was coded using thematic analysis. Results: 80.2% reported a subjective increase in confidence in their writing skills. Frequency of creative writing immediately after and 1 month after the intervention increased by 89% and 80% respectively. Empathy was self-observed to increase by 60%, as well as dealing with uncertainty by 75%. 90% of participants reported that they could better understand patients, with their self-reported clinical communication improving by 73%. All (11/11) stated the course had utility and should be widely applied in medicine. 54% were able to publish their work in peer-reviewed journals after 1 month, of which 81% had never tried before the class. Conclusion: Literary focused writing workshops improve self-reported assessments of medical competencies, objective measures of creativity, and opportunities to publish.

Kacper Niburski MA (we don’t have a bio for Mr. Niburski yet. Check back soon!)

CANCELLED: It sounds messy. It sounds MSsy: poetic inquiry as a methodology for exploring lived experience of multiple sclerosis

Embodied Writing: A Novel Method of Interpreting Illness Through Creative Writing

October 24 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CDT $15

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Illnesses in any form, especially chronic conditions, are difficult for patients to understand and come to terms with in their personal lives. Where the extent of medicine reaches a plateau the work of therapeutic analysis begins, the ways in which we create a lens through which to view our illness. It is my belief that this analysis is best performed through writing, exploring how we see ourselves through literary rumination. This workshop will provide an imaginative examination of illness from the perspective of our bodies, allowing us to become more ourselves at the functional level. We will be very literally embodying our own organs: What is it like to be a heart when a body has high blood pressure? How do lungs feel when pulmonary fibrosis restricts their expansion? Is our skin bewildered at the way it fluctuates with eczema? The objective of this workshop is to provide an alternative outlook on our personal illnesses, one that explores the self beyond a biochemical explanation of disease. Whether you approach the session through humor, empathy, or storytelling, this meditative exercise will hopefully aid in the creation of an end product that allows both writer and reader to gain a new macro-level understanding on sickness, health, and what it means to be alive. While this workshop is well suited to those with illnesses especially those which are chronic, anyone is welcome to join.

Ananya Munjal, MS, MD Candidate (University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine) is a current second year medical student.

Featured Presentation: In Conversation with Samuel Shem

October 26 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm CDT Free and open to the public

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Samuel Shem’s latest novel is MAN’S 4TH BEST HOSPITAL (2019), sequel to the classic novel about medical internship THE HOUSE OF GOD (1978), which was was recently named by the British medical journal The Lancet as one of the two most important American medical novels of the 20th century. THE HOUSE OF GOD has sold over two million copies, in thirty languages. John Updike wrote in an introduction to the 25th anniversary edition: “It glows with the celebratory essence of a real novel…A tale of venture into the valley of death and the truth of the flesh…more timely than ever.” Newsweek listed it in 1999 as “the novel to read about becoming a doctor.” The sequel, MOUNT MISERY (1996), about psychiatric residency at a mental hospital of that name, has been called “another medical classic,” and, by the Boston Globe, “outrageously funny, a sage and important novel by a healer and a Shakespearean.” These novels have been bestsellers in America, Germany, Spain, and the Czech Republic.

Improv’ Your Writing (Skillbuilder Plus Workshop)

October 27 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm CDT  $30

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Finding writing too solitary or serious? Feeling stuck? Looking to be inspired? Paralyzed by the blank page? Then this experiential workshop could be the one for you. The Examined Life is delighted to welcome back our good friend from Australia, Hilton Koppe. During this three our webinar, Hilton will be offering a range of fun short writing exercises in his usual dynamic and engaging manner. The session is suitable for writers of all levels and genres. Bring along writing implements and a sense of curiosity, and be prepared to leave feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to write.

Dr Hilton Koppe is a family doctor from rural Australia. He combines clinical work with an active role in education, including reflective and expressive writing workshops for health professionals, people living with serious or chronic illnesses and the general public. Hilton is regularly invited to facilitate workshops at writers’ festivals. Hilton’s writing can be found in Please See Me, Grieve, The Examined Life, Pulse, Chrysalis, The Universal Doctor and More Voices. His play, Enduring Witness, has been performed in USA and Australia. A film version of the play is used in medical education to facilitate end of life discussions.

Using Electropsychedelic and Neural Biofeedback Loops

October 27 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm CDT $15

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Although commonly used in association with hallucinogens, psychedelic literally means to manifest the psyche (Greek psukh? d?los). Using his custom-built EEG system, Jason Snell is able to manifest brain activity into music and visual displays. What began as an art project that enabled him to make music with his mind quickly became a study of the brain and the electrical activity that inhabits it. The system’s biofeedback feature – the brain reacting to the music it is producing in real-time – has enabled users to explore the relationship between perception and creation, experience the difference between the brain and the consciousness, and to explore the mind like a physical space using the sounds as a type of echolocation. The session will include a short performance by Snell, questions, and discussion with the audience.

Jason Snell is a multidisciplinary artist with expertise in several fields, including computer programming, artificial intelligence, motion design, music production, and generative composition. For over 20 years, he’s fused these talents into multimedia projects, most recently using an EEG biosensor to compose music with his mind. Jason’s development and design work has included projects for global media departments such as HBO, MTV, and Condé Nast. His worked has earned ADC, IAB, Webby, and Glaad Media awards, and been featured at Sundance, SXSW, the Berlin Independent, SF Independent, Slamdance DIG, and Eufonia festivals.

Same Events/Different Narratives

October 31 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CDT $15

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The stories that we tell ourselves are highly personal and biased. One event or series of events can be told from different perspectives. This can be a successful technique used in novel, but in the practice of medicine and in real life can lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Through the telling of the story a patient experience, and the variations of the illness narrative that occur when different parties to the event are asked to relate the story, the audience will be challenged to recognize and identify their own potential biases. The differential emotional processing of narrative styles experienced in medical practice will be examined to elucidate where distance and depersonalization may be encountered. Prompted writing exercises using different lenses will be used to find points of agreement in a narrative and points of conflict or tension.

Lara Ronan, MD is an Associate Professor of Neurology and Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Vice-Chair for Education in the department of Neurology and the Program Director for the Dartmouth Hitchcock Neurology Residency.

Learning to write frankly about ourselves, our training and our profession

October 31 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CDT $15

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In 2002 Saul Weiner, a young attending physician at the time, published an essay in Academic Medicine titled “Learning Medicine with a Learning Disability: Reflections of a Survivor.” Almost twenty years later struggling pre-medical students, medical students, and residents still contact him, often to say that after reading it they felt less ashamed and more hopeful. Writing the piece was possible because of an older mentor who challenged Dr. Weiner to strip away pretentions or self-congratulatory language and to be direct and honest. His recent book, On Becoming a Healer: The Journey from Patient Care to Caring about Your Patients (Johns Hopkins University Press, April 2020), explores how the medical education process undermines the emotional development of physicians such that few are able to fully engage with their patients. Dr. Weiner describes how recognizing this dysfunction and developing self-trust can enable healing interactions with patients that are mutually nourishing. In this session, the author will discuss the challenges and value of writing with candor about the experience of becoming a health care professional. He will invite participants to talk about their efforts at writing with candor about their journey to becoming a healer.

Saul Weiner is professor of medicine, pediatrics and medical education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and deputy director of the research Center of Innovation for Complex Chronic Health Care at the Veterans Health Administration. His research, which focuses on contextualizing care, employs unannounced standardized patients, patients who audio record their visits, and clinical decision support tools enhanced with patient contextual information in the electronic medical record. He is currently leading studies funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and he directs a program, based on his research, to improve care and services to homeless veterans in over 30 cities. Dr. Weiner is the University of Illinois at Chicago 2013 Distinguished Researcher of the Year in the Clinical Sciences. His recent book, Listening for What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care, published by Oxford University Press, received the 2017 American Publishers Award for Professional & Scholarly Excellence in the Life Sciences from the American Association of Publishers. His forthcoming book, On Becoming a Healer: The Journey from Patient Care to Caring About Your Patients, will be published by Johns Hopkins University Press (April 2020). Dr. Weiner is also co-founder and president of the Institute for Practice and Provider Improvement, also called “I3PI,” which applies methods for directly observing care to health plans and individual practices seeking to enhance value based care. In addition to his research and quality improvement work, Dr. Weiner has served as medical education dean, university vice provost, and most recently as senior advisor to the provost. Dr. Weiner is a graduate of Harvard College, and Dartmouth Medical School. He completed his residency at the University of Chicago, and is a former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar.

Writing to Save Lives and Other Acts of Healing

November 3 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm CST $15

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These two panelists, published authors and mothers of chronically ill children, will discuss the importance of writing as a healing act of self-care. The first panelist will illustrate how her mothering and writing practices began to parallel each other, giving her strategies (observe, research, revise) for success and survival in both. The second panelist will outline how historic medical research played a part in accepting and reframing living with a chronic disease. Likewise, she will discuss how her creative process now involves research and other methodologies. The two will end the session with a generative writing workshop aimed to help attendees apply new insight to their own writing practice, however emerging or advanced that might be.

Poet and memoirist Christine Stewart-Nuñez, PhD is the author of Postcard on Parchment (2008), Keeping Them Alive (2010), Untrussed (2016), and Bluewords Greening (2016), winner of the 2018 Whirling Prize. Her awards for creative nonfiction include “An Archeology of Secrets,” which was a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2012. She is a Professor in the English Department at South Dakota State University and the South Dakota Poet Laureate. Find her work at

Rachel Morgan MFA is the author of the chapbook, Honey & Blood, Blood & Honey (Final Thursday Press, 2017), and she is the co-editor of Fire Under the Moon: An Anthology of Contemporary Slovene Poetry (Black Dirt Press, 1999). Her work recently appears in Alaska Quarterly Review, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, Salt Hill, Boulevard, and Barrow Street. She’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently teaches at the University of Northern Iowa and is the Poetry Editor for the North American Review. She’s the mother of Henry, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age three.

Persistence of Memory: Investigating Polio Stories

November 7 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CST $15

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Writing history is inevitably an act of narrative faith. It requires faith in the primary sources. And faith in the ability to interpret those materials, understanding what the voices tell us about. And it also means having the faith in one’s knowledge of other factors influencing what and how stories are told, from a range of possible forms. It requires faith in one’s ability to take the time to tease out the other voices- editorial, cultural (in the case of illness narratives, the cultural voice emphasizes triumphant illness narratives), financial, and others, that shape the narrative. Reading the story of the polio epidemics striking the United States in the early to mid-20th century is a challenge. Much is known about the events, and we hear stories from many of those who had polio. But because of the demographics of those who had the illness, the stories for the most part are filtered through memory. Thus, they are not contemporary records of events. What if there is a contemporary account, written in a 6 year old girl’s voice? But written by her mother? Or else a retrospective by a storyteller with a remarkable memory for details? This paper discusses the history of the 20th century polio outbreaks, and explores the way in which stories are constructed using oral histories, autobiographies, and a unique journal (soon to be published by the UF Library Press). Comparing and contrasting these several sources, especially the first-hand accounts from different sources, shows how the perspective and storyteller illuminates and further completes the story of it impact on individuals, families, and societies.

Nina Stoyan-Rosenzweig MA is a faculty member at the University of Florida Health Science Center Libraries. There she serves as historian and archivist, conducting oral history interviews, serving as a library liaison for medical students, developing exhibits related to health history, planning programs and library special events focusing on wellness, equity and inclusion, and related to traveling exhibits. She also works on developing library collections, especially related to the history of the UF health science center, and health education. She works extensively on environmental health issues, including exploring the relationship between biodiversity and health, and nature as a healing modality. She also directs medical humanities programming in the College of Medicine at UF, where she teaches medical students in the arts and health humanities. She also teaches and advises undergraduates on a variety of topics, including biomedical ethics, environmental health, African studies, nutrition, healthy eating, and sustainable farming, narrative medicine, literature and medicine, history of medicine, the arts, and medical humanities. She is an affiliate faculty member for the Center for African Studies. She currently serves on the advisory council of the Gold Humanism Honor Society, working with the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

The Hospice Doctor’s Widow: A Love Story with Art and Some Practical Insights

November 10 @ 5:30 pm CST $15

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Please join this conversation about when a hospice and palliative care doctor receives a stage IV, metastatic cancer diagnosis and his physician-practice-management-consultant wife takes care of him through his 22-month illness while taking care of herself by art journaling. Jennifer O’Brien will share her experience with art journaling as selfcare, thoughts relevant to end-of-life and family caregiving, as well as the wisdom of her late husband, Bob Lehmberg, MD, a hospice and palliative care physician as a means to initiate and facilitate this session. Jennifer will tell of her experience with regret prevention as it pertains to her own survivorship. She will share the death preparation they did, which was so clearly a demonstration of their thorough understanding of end-of-life realities and their profound love for each other. She will explore both the seeming advantages they had, having been on the provider side of healthcare and the mistakes they made for that very same reason. During the session there WILL be art, stories, insights, lessons learned, mistakes made, laughter, vulnerability, resources, compassion and support. Participants MAY experience: new perspectives, tears, enhanced understanding and difficult realizations. In this discussion session, there will be NO: judgement, criticism, finger wagging, directives or “Shoulding.”

Jennifer O’Brien MSOD (KarenZupko & Associates) is no stranger to healthcare nor to the mortality of loved ones. For more than 30 years she has been a consultant to physicians and served as CEO for two large medical practices. Prior to her husband, Bob Lehmberg, her brother died when she was 18 and her mother died when Jennifer was 37. Jennifer lives in Little Rock, Arkansas where she is an artist and advocate for dialogue about end of life. Her book, The Hospice Doctor’s Widow: A Journal is her honest documentation and artistic interpretation of her story, intended to offer guidance and peace for others who have a loved one with a life-limiting condition. She holds a BA from Boston University and a Master’s in the Science of Organization Development from Loyola University Chicago.

Introducing The Appendix Art Journal: A Multimodal Interprofessional Exploration of Art by Health Professional Students

November 14 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CST $15

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In June of this year the Carver College of Medicine launched The Appendix, an online journal to promote the mission of curating art that stems from both ordinary and extraordinary experiences. In the months since, the art journal has published writing, poetry, illustrations, graphic design, satire, photography, anthologies, animations, original musical compositions, and more. It is our conviction that art should be widely accessible, and in this digital age The Appendix has explored how to make art easy to consume for broad audiences. We believe that anyone can be a creator, and that as future healthcare professionals we have a uniquely tailored approach to the world that is best examined through art. Through our call for submissions The Appendix team was enthused to find that a vast number of students in various health professional schools at the University of Iowa have been creating art on their own time out of their own volition, channeling their unique perspectives and talents into spectacular finished pieces. It is essential for this art to be shared and celebrated, and through the creation of this online journal we have learned that this endeavor is not only incredibly possible but also incredibly necessary. In this discussion-based presentation, members of The Appendix editorial board would like to reflect on what we have learned through the initiation of this project, embolden the creation of art by health professionals, and encourage the establishment of such journals at other institutions.

Ananya Munjal, MS, MD Candidate (University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine) is a current second year medical student.

Metaphor in Medicine: Using Poetry to Build Healthcare Professionals’ Tolerance of Uncertainty and Reflective Capacity

November 14 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CST $15

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Tolerance of uncertainty is a learned skill that can be a protective factor against burnout. Healthcare professionals have traditionally employed the humanities to teach related skills, such as empathy, listening, and reflective capacity, but the selected texts are usually limited to fiction and nonfiction. We propose that the close reading of poetry, a genre that does not always provide narrative resolution in the same way as fiction or nonfiction, is the ideal medium to support residents in building tolerance of uncertainty while also honing tools for critical analysis.
This workshop will present the curriculum and survey results from the pilot semester of Metaphor in Medicine, a series of five, two-hour poetry classes, at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. This elective course paired clinical topics (reproductive health, aging, disability, substance use, LGBTQ+ health) with craft lessons in poetry (theme/meaning, structure, figurative language, sound, verse forms). We will lead a shortened version of one class to demonstrate how the content can be condensed to individual programs’ needs.

Michelle Tong MS is writer and medical student from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her poems appear in the Margins, Glass, and JAMA, among other journals, and she reads for the Bellevue Literary Review. Last summer, she won first prize in the Michael E. DeBakey Medical Student Poetry Awards and received a fellowship from Brooklyn Poets. She teaches poetry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and lives in New York.

Now What? How to Get Published (Skillbuilder Plus Workshop)

November 18 @ 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm CST $30

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You’ve spent hours writing, workshopping, revising and polishing your material. Now you want to send it out into the wider world so that others can read it. We’ll discuss how to submit material to literary journals (including those specializing in the medical humanities, such as “The Examined Life”). We’ll also explore the expanding number of professional journals (such as “JAMA”) which publish short prose and poetry. Finally, we will talk about getting book-length manuscripts read and published. This workshop will be limited to 20 participants so that the focus can be adapted to the interests and needs of the registrants.

Carol Scott-Conner is professor emeritus and chair emeritus of the Department of Surgery at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. She was a founding editor, is past editor-in-chief, and currently serves as fiction editor of “The Examined Life Literary Journal.” After writing or editing more than ten major surgical textbooks, she turned to creative writing. Her short stories have been published in multiple literary journals, ranging from “The Healing Muse” through “North Dakota Quarterly” and compiled into two collections.

Using First-Person Narratives of Neurodiversity to Enhance Communication and Understanding

November 21 @ 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm CST $15

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“The school of medicine at Creighton University recently underwent a global curricular revision. During that process, we used an internal innovation grant to develop a five-week medical humanities seminar elective in “Narratives of Neurodiversity: Appreciating variations in cognitive ability to enhance communication and understanding”. This was offered to first- year medical students in their fall semester.

The course aimed, “through engagement with theories of language, disability studies, and personal narratives” to 1) Examine how clinical language (and the implicit value statements therein) impact the lived experience of families living with neurodiversity; 2) Explore clinical approaches that embrace neurodiversity and affirm whole and complex personhood; 3) Evaluate what concepts of ‘goals of care’ and ‘quality of life,’ might mean when coming from a variety of perspectives.

In this session, we will discuss our experience with teaching the class and the revisions we have undertaken to center the voice of the neurodiverse individual and her/his experience of the world. We found that some students struggled to connect with theoretical materials and that some had a difficult time with modes of discussion that involved literary analysis and interpretation. We hope to engage with session participants about strategies for building trust within the classroom and for encouraging students to “take risks” as they discuss literary narratives that immerse them in experiences that are unlike their own.”

Brooke Kowalke PhD is an Assistant Professor of English and Medical Humanities at Creighton University where she teaches a variety of medical humanities courses to undergraduate and medical students.

Kathleen McKillip MD practices Palliative Medicine at a number of CHI Health Center Hospitals and is an Assistant Professor in the Medical School at Creighton University.

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