Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Medicine, Art and Education/ Narrative Medicine, Poetry in Medical Education Offers a Place for Expression and Healing

Photo C. McLean

Narrative in Education and Practice at McGill Medical School

Maureen Rappaport
MD FCCFP is a family doctor who splits her time between working in a busy community practice in Montreal, Quebec and teaching family medicine residents and medical students. She is also a writer of short stories and poetry mainly about caring for older persons and dying patients.

She believes in a balanced medical education that offers a place for the development of the mind as well as the nurturing of soul. "...We (our medical schools) have been criticized for a failure of heart, for lacking in the art of practice. Reading and writing short stories and poetry in a supportive group setting is one way for some students to discover what is in their hearts and to remember why they went into medicine."

Maureen Rappaport offers a creative writing course as an elective to fourth year medical
students at McGill University called "The Poetry of Practice." Students meet for two and a half hours twice a week for four weeks to read, write and discuss medical literature radically different from what is found in medical textbooks, clinical case notes and scientific journals.

She reports, "One cannot watch death and suffering and not be touched, but these feelings are hard to express, hard to articulate and many times impossible to acknowledge as students
run around the hospital not quite sure of what they're supposed to do as student doctors. For those who can access it poetry offers a language to express the inexpressible. ...For those who wrote, shared and listened in this context ..moments of bearing witness became medical acts. "
"The students in the two years I've held this course told me verbally and in written evaluations they found the course healing, a stress relieving activity, meaningful and a way to maintain
a sense of humanity, a way to resolve conflict and disturbing feelings and a wonderful way to bond with classmates and feel less alone about common experiences."