narrative medicine


Tomorrow I have to give a lecture. To about 200 undergraduates. About narrative medicine.


I’ve spent the last two weeks drafting and redrafting and generally trying to come up with something useful, down-to-earth, fun…. And now I’ve got 11 pages (which will somehow magically stretch into an hour-long talk… if I speak r e a l l y  s l o w l y). Eleven pages, and a bundle of adrenaline coursing through my system. The last time I had to give a public speech, I was five years old and delivered the Preamble to the Constitution (“We the People” etc) at my kindergarten’s Class Day.


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At least this time, I understand the words I’ve going to be saying. Most of them.

I wrote the whole thing out verbatim, because (1) that’s what literature people do, apparently, and (2) I am liable to get distracted halfway through and start babbling like Gussie Fink-Nottle. I will try not to read directly from the paper, because I hate when people do that with Powerpoints, but ah!

They say that if you aren’t doing something that scares you, just a little bit, you aren’t challenging yourself enough. And there’s no denying I’m more excited than scared — excited partly because I’m also going to be teaching narrative medicine to a small group of first-year med students this summer.

Small groups — I can do small groups. Ten to twelve people is a manageable size. A lecture has a very different feel — not only is it longer, but it puts a lot of pressure on me to be the ambassador of narrative medicine. I’m most worried about not being an engaging enough speaker.  Second most about being perceived as not useful. Third about tripping on my way to the podium.

On the other hand, there’s a first for everything. First patient I examined: two year old boy in the peds ED. First operation: bilateral knee replacements. First time I had primary responsibility: patient seizing, or rather, “seizing”. I was equally scared during those other firsts. (Well, maybe not the operation; all my attention then was on propping up a 250-lb’er leg)

So this is just another on the list: first lecture. And my fears will evaporate. I’ll be engaging because I love this topic — clearly — and I’ve practiced this presentation — with hand gestures. I’ve gone to great lengths to make it useful and clinically relevant. As for tripping on my way to the podium … must remember to wear flats!


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