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Message from the Director

Mike VitezI have spent my life as a storyteller. I believe in the power of stories to inspire, to heal, to bring people together  – to change the world. I believe our brains are wired for stories. If you want to reach someone, stir someone, you do it best by telling a story. Stories are also as fundamental in medicine as the physician’s touch, though in the last half century, for many reasons, too often overlooked. I tell medical students if you listen to your patient’s story, really listen, you’re much more likely to love your patient, build trust, find satisfaction in your work, and achieve better outcomes. In my role, I try to bring this love of stories, this belief in the role and importance of narrative, to the hospital and medical school. I feel the community has truly embraced our work.

Much of what we’ve accomplished can be attributed to my two partners, Naomi Rosenberg, MD, an emergency room attending and Associate Director of Narrative Medicine, and Douglas R. Reifler, MD, a general internist and Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Medical Humanities. These two understand the needs of clinicians and students, the pressures and challenges they face, and the demands and requirements of a successful program within a medical school and hospital. Dr. Rosenberg, an English major in college, sees the ways art and literature can enrich and enhance the lives of doctors and students, and in her workshops she so beautifully connects the act of practicing medicine to the art of living, feeling, being human. “This class was one of the most meaningful experiences I have been a part of in medical school,” began one student evaluation, and another stated, “Brilliant and challenging but also calming and joyful.” Dr. Reifler, also a lover of the humanities, has a quote from the poet Yeats on his office wall: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” He is devoted to the professional identity development of young physicians and champions the role and value of reflection in helping students decide what is important to them as doctors and what kind of physicians they want to be.

We all appreciate how reflection and our many narrative medicine activities help students metabolize their experiences and nourish the compassion and empathy that brought them into medicine, emotions often depleted by the rigors of study and training. We three make a good team. We often have fun. And together, working with so many other faculty and students, we add an important dimension to the education of doctors, nurses and other health professionals at Temple.

Michael Vitez
Director, Narrative Medicine Program