Stories form the backbone of medicine. Every doctor must be a skilled listener, hearing narratives told by patients, teachers, and colleagues. A skilled doctor, though, can tell a story just as well. Communicating a cancer diagnosis and the painful road ahead, or engaging a sick patient to modify the lifestyle choices that are threatening their health, requires skillful oration, insightful angles, and respectful tones.
As a doctor, I hear stories every day; stories that I want to share. Many start tragically, have roller-coaster arcs, and end on a note of joy. Some end quickly; others drag on mercilessly. Most enrich my life, like the inspiring story of John, who’s impact I’ve written about on this blog. But other stories are heart-wrenching. At home and abroad, I have heard tales of injustice and misery.
I tell these stories, the good and the bad, to my colleagues every day. Some I share in blog posts or magazine articles, or on stage at conferences. Others I withhold, telling no one, afraid of judgment or criticism, hypothetical stones to be thrown at my authentic glass house.
These stories, of medical brilliance, medical hubris, and medical tragedy, need to be shared, not only in the halls of hospitals but with the public. Some are directly relevant to everyday life. Others require spotlights to bring attention to injustice and misfortune. Some are just plain weird.
I hope you enjoy them. Thanks for reading, and be well.