Bay Path University is joining a growing movement that uses storytelling to strengthen the connection between the clinical and emotional facets of health care with the launch of a Certificate in Narrative Medicine, offered through its Masters in Creative Non-fiction program. Through reflections on the giving and receiving of treatment; interactions with practitioners, patients and agencies; and the journey of illness and recovery, the medical community has embraced the sharing of stories as a way to bring a depth of humanity to what’s so often experienced as an impersonal transaction.
“This new offering draws on the most recent research into the connections between medicine, the humanities, and literature,” says Suzanne Strempek-Shea, faculty member in Bay Path’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction program and author of the cancer memoir Songs from a Lead-Lined Room. “Students will not only develop empathy but also build skills in creative writing, critical analysis of literature, workshop design, teaching and facilitating, and active listening that can be applied to patient/client settings, and beyond.”
Coursework will focus on coping with illness and trauma and explore how inequities in access to medical care and exposure to trauma influence the experiences and outcomes for people of color, women, poor people, and immigrants and undocumented residents, in addition to other marginalized groups.
An internship will give students the opportunity to apply creative and critical thinking, people skills, flexibility, and communication skills in a real-world setting, while contributing meaningfully to their communities.
Launching in January 2021, the Certificate in Narrative Medicine will require no academic prerequisites and will be available to a wide array of professionals within the health care field: physicians and PAs, nurses, OTs and PTs, social workers, psychologists, and trauma and addiction specialists, as well as to writers with a personal illness or trauma story. The certificate courses will also be available to MFA students as a specialized track within Bay Path’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction, currently the only MFA in the country with a Narrative Medicine Certificate option.
“We find that a significant number of students in our MFA in Creative Nonfiction—many with backgrounds in social work, nursing, teaching, and other related fields—are interested in writing narratives based on medical, physical, and psychological trauma. Whether it be healing from cancer, recovering from addictions, surviving abuse, healing from grief, or reckoning with the real-world costs of navigating the world as a woman, person of color, and/or member of the LGBTQ community, they have important stories to tell,” explains MFA director Leanna James Blackwell. “In addition to helping these students tell their stories, the program prepares them to pursue post-graduate careers as teachers and writing workshop leaders, who are specifically qualified to help others wanting tell their own healing stories.”
On June 1, Bay Path will offer a glimpse into the power of medical storytelling at a free, online discussion, webinar and q&a with Strempek-Shea and Meredith O'Brien, MFA graduate and author of the new medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb.
The memoir details O'Brien's multiple sclerosis diagnosis and her struggle to maintain her life as a journalist, teacher, and mother. More information about the event can be obtained at: https://www.baypath.edu/events-calendar/details/hot-topics-in-creative-nonfiction-narrative-medicine-and-the-art-of-the-medical-memoir/2020-06-01/
For more information on the Certificate in Narrative Medicine, visit: https://www.baypath.edu/academics/graduate-programs/creative-nonfiction-mfa/narrative-medicine-track/
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About Bay Path University
Bay Path University was founded in 1897. With locations in Longmeadow (main), East Longmeadow (Philip H. Ryan Health Science Center), Springfield (MA), Sturbridge (MA), and Concord (MA), Bay Path’s innovative program offerings include traditional undergraduate degrees for women, The American Women's College on-ground and online, the first all-women, all-online accredited bachelor’s degree programs in the country; over 25 graduate programs for women and men; and Strategic Alliances, offering professional development courses for individuals and organizations. Bay Path’s goal is to give students confidence in the fundamentals of their chosen field, the curiosity to question the ordinary, the leadership to show initiative, and the desire to make a difference.