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Reflections on our Seventh Story Slam

Held in February 2020

November 07, 2020
Story Slam Speakers - February 2020

This Story Slam at the end of February 2020, was the last big group gathering before the pandemic. We had a full house in MERB and a dozen storytellers. I know I say this each time, but this was the most consistently excellent group of 12 storytellers. Not only were the stories moving, engaging, and inspiring, but we had a beautiful mix and range of storytellers. Truly all 12 storytellers who mount the stage and share their vulnerabilities, fears, joys, and humanity are winners, but Dr. Susan Gersh was voted by the audience as the first place winner for her story, a tribute to her mother, also a physician and pioneer and role model. The story becomes especially poignant now since Dr. Gersh's mother died months after the Story Slam, in the middle of the pandemic, and Dr. Gersh was not allowed to be with her at the end.

There were many highlights. Alex Schlossberg Pereda, a second-year medical student, shared an incredible story about faking appendicitis as a boy so he could stay home from school. It was incredible because of what happened. Dr. Seetha Chandrasekhara told a story about crying on the El, about the beauty of being alone on the subway yet not being alone, a perfect place to process the emotions she felt. Tauron Briscoe, who works overnight in housekeeping in the Temple dental school and as a grill cook in the MERB food court, shared a story about his daughter and his long path to becoming a dedicated father, the most meaningful thing in his life.  And Dr. Richard Martin told a tender, beautiful and heartbreaking story about his wife, who died of cancer, and caring for her. 

It was truly a privilege to listen, a gift to the audience, lifted by the experience of coming together and hearing stories from peers, in person, celebrating our common humanity,  and the passion for medicine. I was hopeful we could assemble again in the MERB this February, that the pandemic would be behind us or under control, but that looks increasingly unlikely. So almost certainly our 2021 Story Slam will be on Zoom. Stay tuned. But first enjoy these stories from earlier this year.

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.