Skip to Main Content

Narrative Medicine Certificate

Bay Path University's Narrative Medicine Certificate offers interdisciplinary classes in medical and trauma narratives (poetry, fiction, essays, and memoir); creative writing; the psychology of the sick; and social justice narratives. The final course in the sequence is an internship under the supervision of a clinical practitioner and writer. The internship will place writers in health care and other settings to lead creative writing groups to foster the use of writing as a tool in the medical journey and/or the trauma experience.


Admissions Requirements
Prospective students may apply for admissions to the Graduate Certificate programs throughout the year.

For consideration, applicants must complete the following and submit to the Office of Graduate Admissions (the same admissions requirements apply to students who will enroll to only one course):

  • A completed application - Apply Now
  • Official undergraduate and, if applicable graduate transcripts (undergraduate degree must be from a college or university whose accreditation is recognized by the New England Commission of Higher Education)
  • A writing sample of 500-1500 words: a personal essay, reflective paper, or short story
  • Two recommendations that address the applicant's potential to lead groups of learners and writers, including those in medically or emotionally vulnerable situations. - Click Here to download the form
  • An interview with Narrative Medicine Certificate Coordinator/Writer-in-Residence

Curriculum & Schedules

Code Course Name Credit Hours
MFA627 Introduction to Narrative Medicine 3

Suzanne Strempek Shea, Instructor

None of us escapes this life without facing illness or trauma or loving someone who is facing physical illness or trauma, nor are any of us unaffected by societal issues including crime, racial strife and unemployment. Reading and writing about these experiences (ours and others') can provide us a framework for a more profound understanding of what it means to be human.

In this 16-week fall course, students will read and discuss contemporary writers who explore the experience of illness or trauma from their own perspectives, plus those of patients, caregivers, loved ones, and observers. Also on the reading list will be one book-length narrative and a craft book. Among the writers and poets to be studied: Tanya Maria Barrientos, Leanna James Blackwell, Melanie Brooks, Susan Deer Cloud, Ted Deppe, Andre Dubus III, Miriam Engleberg, Terry Galloway, Jeffrey Harrison, Richard Hoffman, Ann Hood, Perri Klass, Marianne Leone, John McGahern, Kyoko Mori, Dinty Moore, Nuala O’Connor, Leonard Pitts, Susan Seligson, Jerald Walker, and Virginia Woof.

With the help of weekly writing exercises and prompts, students will engage in the process of writing a narrative of an experience with illness or trauma (1,500 to 2,000 words) and have the opportunity to receive feedback from their instructor and classmates. We will meet regularly via Zoom to discuss course topics, share writing, and further community. Together, we will seek answers to the following questions:

• What is the value of writing about illness and trauma?
• What do stories of illness and trauma have to offer the world?
• What elements of craft and style can help us unravel the complexity of these experiences and engage with them meaningfully and authentically?

MFA628 Medical/Trauma Narratives & Social Justice 3

Charles Coe, Instructor

People of color, women, poor people, and immigrants and undocumented residents, in addition to other marginalized groups, often endure various forms of trauma associated with their status. Through the reading and study of poems, stories, and essays, this eight-week summer course will examine some of the following challenges they routinely face:

1. For immigrants and undocumented residents, trauma experienced in their countries of origin, as well as difficulties faced in adjusting to their new homes, can cause untreated Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

2. Limited access to affordable, ongoing preventive health care often results in manageable chronic illnesses going untreated and becoming life-threatening.

3. A high incidence of incarceration among marginalized groups, and the treatment and conditions experienced in prisons, can be traumatic for incarcerated individuals and their families.

4. The inability or unwillingness of some caregivers and service organizations to overcome cultural barriers can make it difficult to provide effective support. This is complicated by that fact that individuals in need often lack experience advocating on their own behalf. In addition, some might not be aware of resources that exist to help deal with trauma, or for various reasons choose not to approach organizations or institutions that might offer assistance.

5. Women of all backgrounds have throughout history been subjected to exploitation and abuse. Only in recent years has the “Me Too” movement prompted a serious, society-wide examination of this issue.

6. Members of the LGBTQ community can experience profound trauma from legal persecution, societal prejudice, and often toxic family dynamics.

The course will feature assigned readings of poets and writers of fiction and nonfiction prose who have addressed some of these complicated issues, such as Julia Alvarez, Lesley Nneka Arimah, James Baldwin, Tiana Clark, Rita Dove, Martin Espada, Claudia Rankine, Natasha Trethewey, and Lesley Ocean Vuong.

Each week, guided by writing prompts, students will produce 1,500- to 2,000-word essays that explore issues raised by the readings. In addition to developing tools for critical analysis, students will have opportunities on Zoom to “workshop” each other’s writing and develop a skill fundamental for every serious writer—the ability to give and receive constructive criticism.

MFA682 Best Practices for Writing about Illness & Recovery 3

Ainé Greaney, Instructor

This 16-week fall course will prepare students for their field internship, in which they set up and lead a writing workshop in a non-literary or non-academic setting such as a senior-care center, a veterans’ support program, a cancer recovery group or other location. The class will offer best practices in planning, leading, and evaluating writing workshops with organizations and employers whose agencies and businesses serve specific diagnostic or demographic groups.

MFA698 Internship 3

Dr. Allan Hunter, Instructor

This 16-week spring course will function as the second-semester capstone of the four-course certificate program in narrative medicine. Students will enter the course with an internship plan designed in the previous semester specific to their interests and supported by a study of trauma writing methodology. Examples of an internship may include leading—under the guidance of the instructor—writing workshops for patients in a cancer support group, for health professionals in a hospital or clinic, for caregivers of dependents with disabilities, for survivors of domestic violence, for first responders, or for residents in a nursing home.

The course will ask students to synthesize critically what they have learned and apply it to their workshop facilitation, as well as to critically analyze and improve the effectiveness of their methods. Students will be required to read a number of articles and essays throughout the course, to keep a detailed journal of their teaching experience, and to write a final 10-page reflection paper. They will also be expected to participate in class discussions, in Canvas and via Zoom, in order to share their progress and to receive feedback and support. In addition, since their topics will be varied, these discussions will allow students to explore possibly problematic areas and to think beyond their own chosen perspective.

We can expect students to be interested in many kinds of narrative (bibliotherapy, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, video-based story telling) and in many kinds of healing processes. They will be encouraged to share ideas about such diverse topics as:

1. the role of narrative in medical treatments;
2. writing and reading as part of trauma resolution and grief counseling:
3. dealing with PTSD triggered by researching and/or writing difficult stories; and
4. in memoir writing.