Narrative Medicine: Stories of Illness and the Doctor-Patient Relationship

MHS 4050

In this seminar, both classical and contemporary illness narratives are examined to better understand the doctor-patient relationship.  Readings are assigned to discuss each week and range from stories by Anton Chekhov to articles from the New England Journal of Medicine to illness narratives written by medical students and physicians. The text is Narrative Medicine (Oxford University Press) by Rita Charon. We closely examine the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Wit.

Scholars visit the class from across the disciplines of medicine and the humanities to discuss such issues as bioethics, cultural competency, spirituality, and the use of poetry in medicine.  As possible, a patient visits the class. To better understand the doctor-patient relationship, each student writes an illness journal throughout the semester which culminates in a creative presentation of the illness experience.  Writing is an important and crucial component of the class as each student completes two papers in addition to their journal. Selected videos are used to portray the strengths and weaknesses of the doctor-patient relationship.  Role play exercises allow the students to experience the perspective of both provider and patient.