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Why Doctors Write: Finding Humanity in Medicine is a documentary about the growing movement to use writing, humanities, and narrative to provide self-care to clinicians, teach the skills of empathy and observation to medical students, and foster teamwork in healthcare settings. This renewal of writing and the humanities across US medicine comes as a response to the encroachment of technology, managed care, and other constraints that minimize the time doctors and patients spend together. The film explores the genesis of “health humanities” and the rise of writer-MDs, hospitals, and medical schools to the forefront of this movement. Why Doctors Write weaves together the stories of four locations deeply committed to this “humanity intervention” in medicine:
1 – Bellevue Hospital/NYU School of Medicine - we meet Dr. Danielle Ofri and the patient she writes about in her book ‘Medicine in Translation: Journeys with My Patients’, set in the oldest hospital in the US, which also is the first hospital with a literary journal. Storytelling in medicine at NYU is an essential skill practiced by students in the Master Scholars Program in Humanistic Medicine.
2 – The Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons - guided by Dr. Rita Charon, founder of the program, we explore this pioneering program where medical students learn to tell stories through writing, drawing comic books, and even choreographing dances about patients. A narrative medicine research project shows the power of art in strengthening the functioning of a healthcare team in a busy Manhattan family medicine clinic.
3 – Poet-Physician of Boston - the story of how Dr. Rafael Campo turned to poetry and narrative to give voice to his experience as a clinician. As a celebrated poet, unbeknownst to most of his patients at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. Campo has been a tireless advocate for the arts in medicine, and is the co-founder of the Arts and Humanities Initiative at Harvard Medical School.
4 – Physician Writers at Stanford - Over the past decade, the Medicine and the Muse program has become an integral part of the Stanford School of Medicine, and with it has emerged the Pegasus Physician Writers Group at Stanford, a passionate community of writer-doctors that began with a group of six members, and now has over seventy members in seven groups.
Ken Browne is an Emmy award-winning producer/director whose documentaries explore personal transformation through the arts, healthcare, and education.