Thursday Morning Memos shine in Schwartz Center Rounds

Narrative medicine helps nurture compassionate care

July 10, 2012

When several colleagues of longtime family practitioner Michael Ennis, MD, and newly minted physician Ciarán DellaFera, MD, take the stage to render dramatic readings, they will not be auditioning for their theatrical debuts. Rather, they will be bringing UMass Medical School’s narrative medicine program to a new venue, performing in Medical Readers’ Theatre: Storytelling about life in medicine. The latest Schwartz Center Rounds, hosted by UMass Memorial Medical Center, will be presented on Friday, July 13, from noon to 1:15 p.m. in the Faculty Conference Room.

Thursday Morning Memos written by Michael Ennis, MD (left), and Ciarán DellaFera, MD, will be enacted at the Schwartz Center Rounds on Friday, July 13.

Dr. Ennis and Dr. DellaFera are both authors of Thursday Morning Memos, first-person essays about personal experiences with patients. Dr. Ennis, associate professor of family medicine & community health, wrote “Primary Care Ride” about the death of one of his youngest patients from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Dr. DellaFera, a 2012 graduate of the School of Medicine, wrote “Why have you forsaken me?” about a formative encounter during his medical training with a mentor for compassionate care. Enactment of their essays will be followed with an informal audience discussion, which is a hallmark of the Schwartz Center Rounds.


The premise of the rounds—that caregivers are better able to make personal connections with patients and colleagues when they have greater insight into their own responses and feelings—is akin to that of narrative medicine, a practice in which clinicians write reflectively about their encounters with patients. “The telling of our stories is how we in the medical community make peace with bad outcomes, honor patient relationships and process the meaning in our work,” explained Hugh Silk, MD, associate professor of family medicine & community health and the originator of Thursday Morning Memos.

In turn, such reflections can help caregivers provide compassionate care—the raison d’etre for the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center, which supports Schwartz Center Rounds at hospitals around the country. Widely respected in the health care community for its creative and effective promotion of compassionate health care, the non-profit organization was founded in 1995 with a bequest from the late Kenneth Schwartz, a Boston attorney who died of lung cancer at age 40. In 2005, Schwartz’s widow, Ellen Cohen, accepted a posthumous honorary degree from UMass Medical School on behalf of her husband.

All members of the Medical School and Medical Center community are invited to attend Medical Readers’ Theatre: Storytelling about life in medicine. Pre-registration is not required, and a light lunch will be available at 11:45 a.m.  

Related links on UMassMedNow:
Celebrating primary care by telling stories
Personal stories capture medicine’s highs and lows

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