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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Meta story

I have always been a big fan of stories. I love listening to NPR's StoryCorps although I do take issue with those segments playing during my morning work commute since they inevitably make me cry. Heck, this whole blog is built around sharing our stories: finding community and support through our stories. So when the opportunity came up last spring to participate in a live storytelling event, there was no way I was saying no. 

The publisher Springer launched a program to "empower authors and humanize research" called Springer Storytellers. They hold live events where authors tell their personal stories about science and research. This past April, one of these events was tied to one of the big medical meetings I usually attend: Society of General Internal Medicine. I was one of five physician researcher authors who took the stage.

It was difficult for me to decide what story I wanted to tell. It had to be a story related to my work, but a lot of latitude was given about exactly what. I love telling funny stories, and I originally thought I might tell a story about pumping madness while attending a medical conference. In the end, I decided to tell a very different story that I had never told before. The story of how my husband's deployment helped me understand my patients better, and how I became attuned to the stories we can't always, but need to, tell. How it led to a curricular intervention centered on witnessing patient stories. A story about stories.

The setting was breathtaking that evening in Toronto. 


Design Exchange, Toronto




I was fourth out of five in the line-up. Each story I heard that night was unique but equally powerful. I fell a little bit in love with each of my co-storytellers. Something about sharing things so deeply personal and meaningful on stage, owning our vulnerability before a live audience, bound us.

One behind the scenes moment took place as I was walking up the four stairs to the stage. As I took the final step onto the platform with my right foot, my left python-print pump remained on the last step. As in, I walked right out of my shoe. Hello, audience. I had to backtrack and try to replace my shoe as gracefully as possible. The emcee came over to give me an arm to assist. This was not quite Jennifer Lawrence's stair fall, Oscars 2013, but not exactly the entrance I imagined.



With both shoes on

The podcast of my storytelling was recently released.  I couldn't wait for my husband, in particular, to hear it for the first time. I tried to listen to it myself, but between hearing my own voice (don't particularly enjoy) and reliving those emotions, I couldn't quite do it. Maybe with some more time and space. (And now, my first words will make a little more sense knowing my shoe incident.)

To stories that need to be told, and to those who choose to listen.

4 comments:

  1. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing it.

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  2. Love love this, thank you. We are also StoryCorps addicts (and criers!). I know it's hard to listen to yourself, but you did a really wonderful job telling a difficult story. The story of your reunion at Disney World is brought tears to my eyes, just the perfect ending to such a tough year! I am from a Marine Corps family (my dad just retired after 30 years) and although I was out of the house when he eventually deployed overseas, I grew up with many of my friends going through these situations. It's so hard for those back at home taking things day by day with uncertainty... my heart stopped when you talked about missing his phone call that one day in clinic. I am also so touched by the impact of having your medical students sit down and asking veterans to share their stories- it just goes to show the hunger we all have to listen to and connect with each other, to know we have common human experiences. And you have created that here with MiM. You are an amazing woman!!!

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  3. Fantastic podcast. A well told story that should have broad appeal. It's important that you're teaching medical students, because as your one student demonstrated, the storytelling by patients is what can keep these students enchanted by medicine. Medicine has become so dehumanized by the EMR click the box mentality. Storytelling is the reform movement!

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  4. That was just beautiful... resonates I'm sure with anyone who's loved those who deploy. Thank you for sharing.

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