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April, 15 - 17, 2016   |   Registration is full. Email Cindy Smalletz at to be added to the wait list.

Plenary lectures by the Core Faculty and two distinguished scholars in the field, Arthur Frank and Alvan Ikoku, will be given, articulating the conceptual dimensions of the workshop: That narrative medicine is narrative ethics, for the movements of attention, representation, and affiliation that are learned allow the clinician or ethicist to enter the narrative world of the patient, to dwell in that world, and to comprehend what is at stake there. Intensive small group work will give participants experience in its methods.

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The Program in Narrative Medicine of Columbia University has offered the Basic Narrative Medicine Workshop several times a year since its introduction in 2006. In 2016, we inaugurate a tailored version of the Basic Narrative Medicine Workshop that focuses on narrative ethics. Participants at this workshop will learn the narrative medicine principles and methods covered in all our Basic Workshops with thematic attention to issues of narrative ethics.

This Basic Workshop provides an intensive immersion in the methods and skills of narrative medicine. These practices are then applicable to almost unlimited clinical and non-clinical settings and goals. One important application is in the realm of ethics, especially what has come to be called narrative ethics. In addition to providing the basic skills of narrative medicine, this Workshop will show how narrative medicine methods enable all clinicians to strengthen their ethical discernment in daily practice and how clinical ethicists can incorporate narrative methods into their ethical consultations.

Narrative medicine opens the door to the practice of narrative ethics, the form of ethics grounded in the particularities of the patient’s world and revealed through rigorous narrative work. We are tempted to say that narrative medicine is narrative ethics, for the movements of attention, representation, and affiliation learned in narrative medicine allow the clinician or ethicist to enter the narrative world of the patient, to dwell in that world, and to comprehend what is at stake there.

Like clinical practice, narrative ethics is an everyday practice, for it works not only in facing dilemmas or quandaries but takes part in every clinical encounter, every decision, and every therapeutic turn.

We invite nurses, therapists, physicians, dentists, chaplains, and other clinicians to join us to extend their expertise in the longitudinal ethical discernment of practice. Ethicists who attend the workshop will learn how to incorporate narrative methods into their ethical practices, and we invite ethics consultants, IRB members, ethics committee members, and legal/philosophical scholars to join us. Clinical trainees, humanities and ethics graduate students, and narrativists engaged in health care are welcome as well in this inaugural special version of the Basic Narrative Medicine Workshop. 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.

Plenary lectures delivered by the Core Faculty of Columbia’s Program in Narrative Medicine and guest experts in the field will articulate the conceptual dimensions of Narrative Medicine/Ethics, while intensive small group work will give participants real-time and high-stakes experience in the methods of this field.

For those coming to the Program for the first time, this workshop will fulfill the requirement needed to take Advanced Workshops in the Program.

Arthur Frank, PhD, Professor Emeritus of sociology at University of Calgary, ethnographer, memoirist, pioneer in the development of narrative ethics, parser of illness narratives in The Wounded Storyteller and Letting Stories Breathe.

Alvan Ikoku, MD, PhD, assistant professor of comparative literature and of medicine at Stanford University, specialist in medical humanities, narrative ethics, and histories of tropical medicine and global health; has written for the World Health Organization, Small Axe, Literature and Medicine, Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, and Virtual Mentor, the ethics journal of the American Medical Association.

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.

Danielle Spencer, MS, Faculty in the Columbia Program in Narrative Medicine and Einstein-Cardozo Master of Science in Bioethics program, teacher of narrative ethics; has written for The Lancet and The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Medicine.

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.


  • 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.

Completion of this workshop qualifies participants to be eligible to take the Advanced Workshop, offered every two years. This year it is offered June 23-26, 2016. Find out more info >>

$1000 for participants with income over $100,000/year, and $850 for income under $100,000/year (includes syllabus, meals during workshop hours, and readings). Participants are responsible for their own travel and accomodations. When available, the early bird registration offers $50 off both tution 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. View our Accomodation Guide (PDF).


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

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.


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 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.