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MIL OSI

Source: New Zealand Unions Activists and Left Political Parties

Headline: The human faces of medicine – doctors draw deep from their experiences – ASMS

New Zealand’s doctors are writing from the heart in an innovative online project that shows what it is really like to practise medicine.

For the past year the Medicine Stories Project, supported by the ASMS, has been quietly collecting the stories and poems and personal reflections of doctors around the country, and curating them online at http://themedicinestoriesproject.co.nz/.

Now the leaders of the project think it’s time to give those stories a wider readership.

“Doctors have always told stories to each other,” says ASMS National Secretary Dr Jeff Brown, who is a paediatrician at MidCentral DHB. “It’s the way we learn. What we’ve done is ask them to share the stories they tell in the corridors, tea rooms, around dinner tables and late at night.

“This is about putting the human face on medicine and showing how what we do has an effect on us, as well as our patients.”

That’s echoed by Dr David Galler, an intensive care specialist at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital and author of the memoir, Things that matter: stories of life & death.

“For doctors, writing is an opportunity to express our feelings about some of the profound things we come across,” he says. “So much of what we do is not black and white, it’s grey, and we want to help people to understand that.

“These stories show that doctors are human and fallible, that we have feelings as well. It’s another way of engaging the community and the public with our work, including some of the things that don’t get talked about very much.”

GP and poet Dr Glenn Colquhoun is encouraging other doctors to contribute their thoughts, reflections and stories.

“I think in many ways that medicine is a storytelling profession,” he says.

“Many of its interventions might be based on scientific principles but at the heart of it lies a very ancient interaction – someone who is unwell tells someone who is believed in what is wrong with them. There is an exquisite tenderness in that – or there should be. Any science brought to bear is crucially wedded to the interpretation of the story that lies behind.”

Jeff Brown says the website for the Medicine Stories Project, hosted by Ko Awatea and Counties Manukau DHB, began as a trial last year to gauge interest from doctors in building an online repository of stories. The results, he says, have been astonishing.

“The submissions we’ve been getting are outstanding. They’re from the heart. Who knows where we will go next? We might put these stories in an anthology or find other ways to publish them. They’re that good.”