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Reflections in medicine: SOM students launch podcast to highlight stories of caregivers

By Kylee Denesha

UMass Medical School Communications

June 24, 2020
Divya Bhatia and Qiuwei Yang

Two School of Medicine students have launched a podcast called, Murmurs: Stories from our Journey in Medicine, to help caregivers and students connect their health care experiences through prose and poem.

“We want to uncover what makes doctors and nurses tick. There are so many human interactions that sometimes medical training does not give us the time and headspace to reflect on,” said Divya Bhatia, SOM ’21, and “Murmurs” co-curator. “I think that one of the things we’ve noticed that works for us and other people in the medical community is writing. It’s a helpful form of expression, and in turn it can help others who listen.”

“We started reaching out to people we knew were involved in this introspective style of writing. There’s a strong medical humanities community here at UMass,” said co-curator Qiuwei Yang, SOM ’22. “We found folks who have either been published or just naturally are passionate storytellers.”

In each episode, the writer reads his or her piece, then Bhatia and Yang pose questions that dig deeply into their connection to the work. Both students say they are inspired to give a voice to practitioners, bridging the gap between medicine and emotion.

“There is a journey of being in medicine as you are constantly learning,” said Bhatia. “There can be a sense of burnout where storytelling can combat it with reflection.”

“It can also build community by making people closer over shared experiences or challenges. We can use it as a tool for connection,” said Yang.

“Murmurs” covers a variety of topics, including narratives on working with incarcerated families and forensic evaluations for people seeking asylum in the United States. David Hatem, MD, professor of medicine and co-chair of the Humanities in Medicine Committee, is featured in one podcast and his story analyzes the mechanisms behind neurological exams if a patient is comatose. Dr. Hatem said the platform is an opportunity for practitioners to find meaning in their work, beyond the day-to-day tasks.

“In the business of medicine and all of the paperwork and phone calls, I do think it’s compelling to return back to what matters most—why we’re doing this in the first place,” he said. “More students are recognizing that it’s important to learn parts of medicine that will be crucial to render care, while simultaneously doing things that remind them of the human in medicine. This is a perfect representation of that, and these students should be applauded.”

Hugh Silk, MD, MPH, professor of family medicine & community health, serves as the faculty advisor. He is the moderator for the “Thursday Morning Memo,” celebrating reflective accounts in patient care and clinical experiences. With a background in narrative medicine, Dr. Silk said the podcast is meaningful.

“Creativity is the number one skill a young physician needs. Each interview is very thoughtful. The questions really get to the heart of why the writer chose the subject they did and why they write in the first place. It has been a real joy to work with Divya and Qiuwei,”  Silk said.

Murmurs: Stories from our Journey in Medicine will be released weekly and featured on the Lamar Souter Library’s Medical Humanities Lab. Listeners can subscribe via Apple iTunes PodcastsSpotify and Anchor