Hi everyone – and welcome to the Medicine Stories Project. We are a small website and we are new but we want to do something that we hope is very simple – collect the stories of doctors. We began as a collaboration between Ko Awatea and the ASMS and we think that medicine, at least in part, is a storytelling profession. We want to celebrate that. We think that sometimes narrative and the subjective can be just as good at pointing towards illness and what to do about it as the objective.
You all know that what we know about the body, its illnesses and the treatments for these illnesses is constantly evolving. And the scientific method is an amazing tool in this regard – so good that in many ways the language of science has become the language of medicine.
But medicine is an old art form as well. And at the heart of its practice is the consultation. This involves a patient telling a doctor a story. Bodies have a plot, as do illnesses and treatments and doctors. Often untangling and interpreting these plots can shed light on a person’s situation, as well as a pathway forward in any treatment they might need.
Listening well is a way of caring for a patient and for ourselves, i.e. it is a medicine in itself. But there seem to be so many pressures at times that interfere with our ability to do this simple thing well.
The Medicine Stories Project wants to share what we learn when clinicians do listen well or reflect or wonder. We want to collect and distribute the stories of doctors and their patients. We hope that they might become a tool for doctors to gain experience from each other, and a way of standing back and seeing ourselves as a profession. The site might also be a place for us to download our joys and sorrows and frustrations and angsts – as well as the sense of wonder the job can bring.
It seems that there are few places where we can talk about our subjective experiences in medicine. The language to do so somehow seems a casualty of learning to speak in a way that, at its best, does not value the local and, at its worst, pretends an objectivity it does not really possess. The Medicine Stories Project is a small but brave attempt to offer a counterpoint to this.
So we invite you to write down some of your stories of medicine and send them to us at The Medicine Stories Project. They might come in many forms – as memoir, song, poetry, drama or fiction. They might be a letter or a scrap of recollection. They might be stories that wonder at the body, or the individual patient and personality, and the way these interact within a community or with the sensibility of the doctors who are part of them. If you have a story, or simply an observation, and you are not afraid to write it down, we are asking you to send it in.
It doesn’t matter what speciality or style of medicine you practice, or whether you are a medical student or retired from the profession. If you have been a doctor, or are on the path to becoming one, then we would love to hear from you.
We will acknowledge each story and archive them all. We believe that in their range of style and topic they might build a picture of our profession that is accurate in its accumulation. At the moment we don’t have many resources to put towards the project so we might not be able to give you detailed feedback on every piece submitted. We would like to anthologise a selection of pieces on the site that show literary quality or hint at underlying currents within our profession or that simply could not be put down.
Please make sure it is your own work and that you protect the confidentiality of any patients you mention. This may mean changing the details of some names and locations referred to in your story.
If you have a piece of writing to submit please follow the instructions on this website for sending it to us. There is no time limit on the project. We think that doctors will always deserve an outlet for what we see and hear. No matter how unhappy or unfamiliar you feel writing things down, we each have stories that range from the tender and poignant to the laugh-out-loud funny. We welcome them all. We encourage you to pick up a pen and ‘why not say what happened.’
Our best wishes,
The Medicine Stories Project Team