A Basic Narrative Medicine Workshop

April 7 - 9, 2017

Please email Cindy Smalletz at csmalletz@columbia.edu to be added to the wait list

The Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University will hold a Narrative Medicine Basic Workshop called “Race | Violence | Justice: The Need for Narrative” on April 7-9, 2017 at the Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. We live in an increasingly polarized society with exceedingly complex and pressing issues facing health care, including class and race-based health disparities, unequal access to health care, and the increasing toll of gun violence against persons of color. Rigorous narrative work may reveal a path through intensely divided positions on these issues toward a place of productive understanding.

Our signature methods of close reading, attentive listening, and perspectival respect hold out possibilities for reciprocal understanding, even in the face of deep divisions. Together, we will use narrative methods to bridge divides and catalyze action.

We welcome our guest speakers:

  • George Yancy, philosopher, author of Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race and Look, A White! Philosophical Essays on Whiteness
  • Mindy Fullilove, community psychiatrist, activist urban planner, and author of Urban Alchemy
  • Sayantani DasGupta, writer, pediatrician, professor of narrative medicine, and author of Globalization and Transnational Surrogacy in India
  • Topher Sanders, award-winning investigative journalist, author of recent NY Times opinion piece “Only White People, said the little girl," who covers race inequality for Pro Publica

We invite public health activists, community leaders, social activists, police officers, legal/philosophical scholars, nurses, therapists, physicians, dentists, chaplains, and other clinicians to extend their expertise and contribute to this conversation of pressing importance.

For those who have already taken the Basic Narrative Medicine Workshop, the April 2017 workshop is a way to enhance their narrative skills with an entirely new set of lectures and group work focused on Race, Violence and Justice. For those coming to the Program for the first time, this workshop will fulfill the requirement needed to take Advanced Workshops in the Program.


Many persons engaged in health care, either as patients or providers, are hungry to give and receive care. Attentive listening, creative contact, singular accuracy, and personal fidelity have gone missing from the routines of our practices. Among the many responses to the failures of our current health care system is Narrative Medicine. Developed at Columbia University in 2000, Narrative Medicine fortifies clinical practice with the ability to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by stories of illness. We realize that the care of the sick unfolds in stories, and we recognize that the central event of health care is for a patient to give an account of self and a clinician to skillfully receive it.

The clinical routines and the teaching methods of Narrative Medicine, our experience and research show, can transform practice and training. Time-tested teaching approaches can help participants who seek to convey to their learners the skills of empathic interviewing, reflective practice, narrative ethics, self-awareness, and creating and sustaining healing intersubjective contact with patients and colleagues.

Come work and study with us for a weekend. Gather with colleagues from the world over to learn the narrative skills of close reading, attentive listening, and creative writing. Find out how your own imagination can reveal things you know unawares. Experience the deep bonds that can form among clinicians and those who care about health care in short periods of small group intensive narrative work. Recognize and be recognized as ones who have care within them.


2:00 - 2:30 Registration (Alumni Auditorium, 650 W 168th St, New York, NY 10032)
2:30 - 3:00 The Need for Narrative | Rita Charon, MD, PhD and Maura Spiegel, PhD
3:00 - 4:00 Mindy Fullilove | Seeing "serial forced displacement" in our narratives
4:15 - 6:30 Small group session
6:30 - 7:30 Cocktail Reception

9:00 - 10:30 George Yancy will explore the response to his New York Times "Dear White America” letter and will suggest necessary counter-narratives in the context of thinking about Black bodies.
10:45 - 12:15 Small group session
12:15 - 1:30 Lunch
1:30 - 3:00 Topher Sanders, an investigative reporter, will speak about the response to his article "'Only White People,' said the little girl," and the difficult balance of raising black children who are aware and perceptive, yet still open-minded to the goodness of people around them.
3:15 - 4:45 Small Group Session

9:00 - 10:30 Sayantani DasGupta | Visionary Medicine: Racial Justice, Health and the need for Radical Imagination
10:45 - 12:15 Small group session
12:15 - 1:30 Lunch
1:30 - 3:00 Small group session: Using narrative methods to bridge divides and catalyze action
3:15 - 4:45 Interactive session with All Faculty: Using narrative methods to bridge divides and catalyze action
4:45 - 5:00 Panel Discussion: Looking to the Future


We invite nurses, physicians, dentists, chaplains, social workers, therapists, public health professionalsand other clinicians, as well as writers, academics, scholars and all those interested in the intersection of narrative and medicine to join us. By combining these groups of participants, we can all learn how to unify what are sometimes divided efforts in patient care, integrating the ethical awareness and sensibility with the clinical recognition that can ensue.


  • Develop the narrative competence to nourish empathic doctor-patient relationships
  • Learn narrative communication strategies for patient-centered and life-framed practice
  • Build habits of reflective practice that enhance professionalism and nurture clinical communities
  • Acquire pedagogic skills to teach methods of narrative medicine
  • Replace isolation with affiliation, cultivate enduring collegial alliances, and reveal meaning in clinical practice

Held at the Columbia University Medical Center campus, these weekends will provide opportunities for individual consultations with faculty, shared meals, informal social gatherings, and access to the cultural offerings of New York City.


"I am seeing more the value of narrative medicine – bringing us beyond the superficial to appreciating more the richness and complexity of our lives."
Tom McNeil, Social Worker
Cape Breton Cancer Centre, Nova Scotia, Canada

"I wish I could attend a workshop every few months. There’s something about having a community of practice that replenishes and inspires. The workshop made me more confident to move forward with [my narrative] project: why not me? why not now?"
Kathy Kirkland, Palliative Care Physician
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Hanover, NH, USA


Rita Charon, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine at Columbia, narratologist and Jamesian, Executive Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine, author of Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness.

Nellie Hermann, MFA, Creative Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine, novelist, architect of Columbia’s faculty development in writing for clinicians, author of The Cure for Grief and The Season of Migration.

Craig Irvine, PhD, Director of the Master of Science in Narrative Medicine graduate program at Columbia, Lecturer in Narrative Medicine at Columbia, phenomenologist and memoirist, author of “The Other Side of Silence: Levinas, Medicine, and Literature.”

Maura Spiegel, PhD, Professor of English at Columbia, Interim Director of Columbia’s American Studies Program, Victorianist and cinema scholar, editor of The Grim Reader and author of the forthcoming biography of film director Sidney Lumet.


  • $1000 for participants with income over $100,000/year
  • $850 for income between $45,000 and $100,000/year
  • $500 for income under $45,000/year
(includes syllabus, meals during workshop hours, and readings). Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodations. When available, the early bird registration offers $50 off all tuition amounts.

Discounts for cohorts:
Based on our experience that cohorts of participants from an institution are better able to continue their narrative learning and to ignite narrative projects at their home institution, we now offer a discount of $100 on the tuition of each individual who attends within a cohort of two or more.


Columbia University Medical Center
Hammer Health Sciences Building
701 W. 168th Street
New York, NY 10032

Participants are responsible for their own accomodations. For information about travelling here, go to the Columbia Travel Portal. You will find travel information and hotel discounts here. Please keep in mind we are located at the Medical Center Campus, at 168th Street (which is about 3 miles north from the main Morningside Campus, just a few stops along the 1 train).

Columbia University makes every effort to accommodate individuals with disabilities. If you require disability accommodations to for this event, please contact the Office of Disability Services at 212-854-2388 or disability@columbia.edu at least 10 days in advance of the event. We will do our best to arrange accommodations received after this deadline but cannot guarantee them.


Accreditation Statement:
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

AMA Credit Designation Statement
The College of Physicians and Surgeons designates this live activity for a maximum of 15.75 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™ . Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Continuing Dental Education
Columbia University College of Dental Medicine is an ADA CERP Recognized Provider 11/1/13 through 12/31/17. ADA CERP is a service of the American Dental Association to assist dental professionals in identifying quality providers of continuing dental education. ADA CERP does not approve or endorse individual courses or instructors, nor does it imply acceptance of credit hours by boards of dentistry.Concerns or complaints about a CE provider may be directed to the provider or to ADA CERP at www.ada.org/goto/cerp.

Participants: Continuing Education credits awarded for participation in the CE activity may not apply toward license renewal in all states. It is the responsibility of each participant to verify the requirements of his/her licensing board(s) and to report credits to the appropriate authority.

Continuing Education Credits for Social Workers
15.75 CEUs are available for NYS, NY, NJ and CT-licensed social workers. Additionally, NY State regulations mandate full attendance to receive the credits. So participants must attend the entire workshop (no partial credits).

Use this link to view Columbia University Preferred Hotels and get discounted rates.