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First Story Slam: A dozen funny, powerful and heartbreaking narratives

March 01, 2017

Fourth-year medical student Tyler Rainer wows the crowd with her winning story, Tattoo Graveyard.

The first Temple Story Slam was a glorious success. Five faculty physicians, a resident, a fellow and five medical students each shared a five-minute story with more than 100 fellow students and doctors at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine. “They talked about incidents and situations that brought out their humanity; they shared stories of their own doubts, failures, and struggles; they looked inside of themselves and brought out things that were very unexpected and, in fact, exhilarating and surprising,” said one audience member.

“I went home and raved to my sister about it,” said one medical student, “especially about how it connected the students and the faculty. We don’t often get a chance to mingle with the faculty in a setting that’s not about networking or instruction, so I for one appreciated seeing my preceptors in a different capacity.”


There is Narrative Medicine Director Michael Vitez as moderator!

The first five stories were streamed live on Facebook, prompting one newly admitted student to write, “ Love this. Can’t wait to start in August!”

Tyler Ranier, a fourth year medical student, won first prize for her story, Tattoo Graveyard, about the death of a young man with 12 gunshot wounds at 2:30 on a February afternoon. Part poetry, part narrative and pure passion, her story, a fresh, raw, heartbreaking look at such a tragedy, wowed the audience, which voted her the winner. She won a $150 gift certificate to Wm Mulherin’s Sons, one of the city’s hottest new restaurants in Fishtown. Kristen Weiner, a first year medical student, won second prize for her story, Starving, a powerful, personal narrative about her overcoming an eating disorder.


Jonathan Kersun, an assistant professor in the department of psychology, also enjoys the Slam.

The stories were as rich and diverse as the experiences of the participants. Dr. Larry Kaplan told a story from his residency in the 1980s, when he was sure he killed a patient through neglect, yet was saluted in a letter by the family, and celebrated publicly by his chair. for his great care. The tears came rushing back all these years later as he recounted the story.

Dr. Wei Shaw, a third year resident in radiology, said how it was a crippling accident that inspired her to become a doctor, and while she always dreamed of saving lives in a dramatic fashion, she went into radiology, sitting at a desk. But she shared the most tender, sweet story about helping a little girl who fell in her neighborhood, and she had the best last line of the night.

Watch the first several minutes of the Story Slam on Facebook.

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Michael Vitez, winner of the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism at The Philadelphia Inquirer, is the director of narrative medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University.