Monday, February 16, 2009

Words Matter: Healing with Words and Medicine

There is a lovely story in today's Washington post about a doctor who turned to writing to help heal himself of the stress that came from treating AIDS back in the 1980s.

The writer is Dr. Abraham Verghese, an AIDS specialist who cashed in his 401K nearly 20 years ago to become a writer. He is a physician and a published author who lectures on the pen and the stethoscope: what writing can teach us about medicine. His primary thesis: that "...harried doctors must understand that to every patient, illness is a story."

Verghese is an Indian-Ethiopian who now lives in America. And given his diverse background and his work with AIDS patients, he understands that doctors dispense healing, not necessarily cures.

The narrative of medicine. The narrative of life. When dealing with the terribly ill, words matter. And Verghese is a doctor who understands the importance of the narrative as it relates to the patient.

For more, check out the story here. And you'll learn that Chekhov died sipping champagne instead indulging in further medical treatments. Which seems a completely appropriate narrative for a Russian writer dying of TB.

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