August 6, 2009

the power of storytelling in medicine

My beach book this summer was The Hakawati (which means storyteller, in arabic) by Rabih Alameddine which is a story of the power of storytelling. Since I am also about to begin medical school, a friend suggested that before the summer is over, I also read How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman, MD, a book about the power of listening to storytelling - in medicine. The two books are on such vastly different topics, but begin with the same instruction: Listen.

My question for this post is: what is the most powerful tool in all of medicine?
The answer, according to Dr. Groopman and others (Mr. Alameddine would probably agree) is the ability to fully listen. While this is not included in my personal essay about why I want to become and think I can become a truly effective physician - I think the fact that I love, and have always loved, to know people's stories, contributes to my fascination with medicine. In how many other professions do you get to know the intimate details of people's lives - their fears and hopes, their family structure, that they lay awake at night and can't fall asleep? I think maybe just writers and doctors - perhaps that's why there's so much overlap...

"Ask an unscripted question" -Atul Gawande, MD in a speech to Harvard Medical School students telling them about his five rules of medicine (this is the first)

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