literature and medicine

On reading in the Prince George Citizen (Nov. 15th) about the direction for Dr. Sarah de Leeuw’s Northern BC aboriginal health project

[De Leeuw’s] research will focus on finding ways to apply fine arts and humanities to help train health professionals to understand health inequities and better connect with residents of smaller communities so health workers will be more inclined to stay.

“I believe that if undergraduate medical students with the Northern Medical Program can use writing or visual art to reflect on their profession, we might be able to lower rates of burnout,” said de Leeuw.

“If we use the arts as a means to promote rural communities and actively partner health care professionals with the arts community, we will have a higher likelihood of recruiting and retaining them. The arts, in my mind, are an underutilized arena through which to address and solve some of the plaguing health inequities we live with in the Northern Health Authority.”

…I’m thinking that there might be a role for book clubs/reading groups in helping doctors practice narrative medicine:

The principles of narrative medicine are based on health care workers getting to know their patients and their medical histories in a holistic approach to health so they are better able to treat specific problems with patients. In her research, de Leeuw will investigate ways to stimulate patient-doctor dialogues through the use of storytelling, journal writing, poetry, reading, and even watching movies, which she says will help health care workers gain understanding and make them more responsive to the needs of patients.

Guardian UK article about book clubs for doctors.

Maine Humanities Council’s literature and medicine program.

Q & A with Dr. Abraham Verghese, author of the novel Cutting for Stone, about the role of literature in empathy-building for medical professionals.

One thought on “literature and medicine

  1. Sarah de Leeuw says:

    Thanks, Melinda, for taking the time to so fully think about potential relationships between literacy, literary arts (and other creative endeavors), and medicine/health. I am looking forward to more of just these kinds of conversations – and am also excited about being able to turn to your blog as I explore the topic!

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