Storytelling in Medicine Program
It has been said that humans are the storytelling animal—that our ability to tell, hear, and share stories is integral to who we are. The Center for the Art of Medicine’s (CFAM) Storytelling in Medicine Program (led by Dr. Ben Trappey, Dr. Anthony Williams, and Dr. Maren Olson) recognizes that stories are one of the most powerful ways for us to connect, empathize, and heal.
Our purpose is to promote the creation and sharing of stories about the lived experiences of healthcare workers and patients. We recognize that societal inequities persist via the stories we elevate and the stories we marginalize, and healthcare is no exception. Thus, true transformation must incorporate the voices of marginalized communities and historically disenfranchised groups to explore themes of inclusion and bias in medicine.
The Storytelling in Medicine Program provides time, space, and techniques for those interested in becoming more effective storytellers. We organize, facilitate, and host:
- Story Slams
- Reflective Writing Elective
- Writers’ Workshops
Beginning in 2018, residents, fellows, and faculty from across the Twin Cities metro area have gathered together to share stories and build community. These Story Slam events—both in-person and virtual—have become a treasured opportunity for physician trainees and attending physicians to share stories of wisdom, bravery, insight and vulnerability.
The CFAM team has also engaged in research about the impact of storytelling events in graduate medical education, demonstrating that attendees experience a sense of connection and community, re-connection with meaning and purpose in their work, gratitude, and feelings of renewal and hope.
Given the success of the GME storytelling events, the first annual story slam for medical students was launched in 2021. While the inaugural event was virtual due to the pandemic, we look forward to gathering together in person for future events.
Reflective Writing Elective
The CFAM Storytelling in Medicine program offers reflective writing electives for both medical students and residents who are interested in developing their creative and reflective writing skills. The elective provides dedicated time and guidance for the creation, editing, and submission of pieces with the goal of publication in medical or creative writing journals and anthologies.
CFAM hosts workshops for writers. The “Storytelling Collaborative” (for residents, fellows, and faculty) and “Prose Section” (for medical students) are monthly gatherings for those interested in developing their creative and reflective writing skills. During each session, participants read, analyze, and discuss recently published medical reflective writing pieces and then create their own personal reflections.
Facilitators: Dr. Ben Trappey, Dr. Maren Olson, Dr. Anthony Williams
Selected Reflective Essay Publications
“Running on Fumes” by Ben Trappey. JAMA: A Piece of My Mind, 2020.
“Muscle Memory” by Maren Olson. Academic Pediatrics: In the Moment, 2021.
“A Human Space” by Anthony Williams. Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 2022
“Beyond the Rubble of Lake Street—Minds in Crisis in a City in Crisis” by Rebecca Grossman-Kahn. NEJM, 2021.
- “Visionary Insight” by Nasreen Quadri. Lancet Respiratory, 2021.
The Strength of Our Stories: A Qualitative Analysis of a Multi-Institutional GME Storytelling Event. Maren E. Olson, M. Lynne Smith, Alexandra Muhar, Trisha K. Paul, and Ben Trappey. Published in Medical Education Online, June 2021.
- There and Back Again: The Journey of Medical Storytelling. UMN Masonic Children’s Hospital Pediatric Grand Rounds, June 2, 2021.