HCN News & Notes

Bay Path University Launches Certificate in Narrative Medicine

LONGMEADOW — Bay Path University is joining a growing movement that uses storytelling to strengthen the connection between the clinical and emotional facets of healthcare with the launch of a certificate in Narrative Medicine, offered through its master’s in Creative Nonfiction program.

Through reflections on the giving and receiving of treatment; interactions with practitioners, patients, and agencies; and the journey of illness and recovery, the medical community has embraced the sharing of stories as a way to bring a depth of humanity to what’s so often experienced as an impersonal transaction.

“This new offering draws on the most recent research into the connections between medicine, the humanities, and literature,” said Suzanne Strempek-Shea, faculty member in Bay Path’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction program and author of the cancer memoir Songs from a Lead-Lined Room. “Students will not only develop empathy but also build skills in creative writing, critical analysis of literature, workshop design, teaching and facilitating, and active listening that can be applied to patient/client settings, and beyond.”

Coursework will focus on coping with illness and trauma and explore how inequities in access to medical care and exposure to trauma influence the experiences and outcomes for people of color, women, poor people, and immigrants and undocumented residents, in addition to other marginalized groups.

An internship will give students the opportunity to apply creative and critical thinking, people skills, flexibility, and communications skills in a real-world setting, while contributing meaningfully to their communities.

Launching in January 2021, the certificate in Narrative Medicine will require no academic prerequisites, and will be available to a wide array of professionals within the healthcare field: physicians and physician assistants, nurses, occupational and physical therapists, social workers, psychologists, and trauma and addiction specialists, as well as to writers with a personal illness or trauma story. The certificate courses will also be available to MFA students as a specialized track within Bay Path’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction, currently the only MFA in the country with a Narrative Medicine certificate option.

“We find that a significant number of students in our MFA in Creative Nonfiction — many with backgrounds in social work, nursing, teaching, and other related fields — are interested in writing narratives based on medical, physical, and psychological trauma,” said MFA Director Leanna James Blackwell. “Whether it be healing from cancer, recovering from addictions, surviving abuse, healing from grief, or reckoning with the real-world costs of navigating the world as a woman, person of color, and/or member of the LGBTQ community, they have important stories to tell. In addition to helping these students tell their stories, the program prepares them to pursue post-graduate careers as teachers and writing workshop leaders, who are specifically qualified to help others wanting tell their own healing stories.”

On June 1, Bay Path will offer a glimpse into the power of medical storytelling at a free online discussion, webinar, and Q & A session with Strempek-Shea and Meredith O’Brien, MFA graduate and author of the new medical memoir Uncomfortably Numb, which details her multiple sclerosis diagnosis and her struggle to maintain her life as a journalist, teacher, and mother. For more information about the event, click here.

For more information on the certificate in Narrative Medicine, click here.