I wanted to share an article I read in the Oprah magazine for July 2012, called, The Story Doc. I loved what this doctor is doing to change the face of medicine.

When doctor Rita Charon found herself overtaxed with patients and dealing with the complexities of each case, she realized it wasn’t lack of science that was the problem it was her, she was not a good listener.

Charon realized that the clues she needed weren’t confined to lab results and diagnostic scans.. they were embedded in her patients’ habits, fears, beliefs, family circumstances, even their insurance battles. To better herself and her listening she enrolled in a class at Columbia University to see what she could discover about the art of storytelling.

Over the next few years, her part-time course work turned into a PhD in literature. In this time her skills for listening and asking questions made her time with her patients more enjoyable. She now teaches aspiring doctors what she didn’t learn in medical school.

Charon is the founding director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University, where future MDs participate in writing workshops and learn from classic texts. The idea is that these literacy exercises will enhance the student’s ability to interpret stories – and take this skill into their own work.

As she says, “When doctors can see illness from their patients’ eyes they become better doctors” – more empathetic.

Charon’s effort to restore the human element of medicine seems to be resonating with her colleagues around the globe. She has influenced people and for that she is receiving grants for more of her work, 8 other medical schools, including McGill in Montreal, Canada, now offer coursework in narrative medicine. There will soon be a certificate program through Columbia University.

She has learned to start the conversation but not finish it… time to listen. Way to go and I love your work. It’s time that medicine recognizes the body/mind connection.

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