It has often been said that storytelling is a way to better understand the world. At GWHT, gathering and telling stories has been central to our mission from the beginning.
What do stories have to do with healthcare? Esther Choy, President and Chief Story Facilitator at Leadership Story Lab, is considered an expert storyteller and provides five ways stories can improve healthcare.
While developing the innovative cervical cancer screening devices, our team had the opportunity to utilize stories as a way of making data memorable.The Callascope team encouraged the women who tested out the devices to document their stories both orally and through written form. Most people with a cervix have never had the opportunity to see their own cervix, when the study participants were able to have this experience, the stories that resulted were ones that conveyed both shock and awe at what this little organ is capable of.
Last year our Bass Connections team spent a year studying the impact of storytelling. The students conducted a 4 week series to explore how sexual and reproductive health and therapeutic writing intersect.
Read more about their work and research here: Integration of Technology and Storytelling to Create a Visual Art Exhibit on Women’s Health (2019–2020).
In recent years, more physicians have recognized the importance of using storytelling in medicine and a new area of medicine known as narrative medicine, creates a space for these stories. Columbia University defines narrative medicine as, an interdisciplinary field that brings powerful narrative skills of radical listening and creativity from the humanities and the arts to address the needs of all who seek and deliver healthcare. It enables patients and caregivers to voice their experience, to be heard, to be recognized, and to be valued, improving the delivery of healthcare.
For the 2020–2021 academic year, GWHT attempted to practice radical listening through the form of a “Listening and Learning Series” panel discussions. These conversations centered on hearing a personal story, learning about data and brainstorming ways for change. Through this series we heard and learned from the stories of those ranging from racism in healthcare, LGBTQ+ disparities in healthcare, Black Maternal Health crisis and Latinx community experience with COVID-19. Our team did very little speaking during these events and focused on practicing radical listening to all of our panelists as a way of beginning to model this shift towards enabling people to be voice their stories, to be heard and to be our guides as we try to make healthcare more accessible and equitable.
Through these panels we provided the opportunity to both center panelists from diverse communities as well as to hear from our community members through Q/A discussions.
This summer we are hoping to go beyond hearing stories and moving towards collecting stories in order to further share the experiences and narratives of our community. Empowering women is core to our mission and we are seeking to create a platform for people to feel empowered through storytelling. GWHT is opening our inboxes to collect stories about women’s health, reproductive health, sexual health and global health.
We welcome submissions from anyone about women’s health, reproductive health, sexual health and global health. These submissions can be in academic or informal tones and in traditional or alternate forms of media such as video or photo, poetry, pottery, written stories, and more.
In Early September we will host a showcase on campus where participants will have the opportunity to hear and read other stories, view submitted artwork and converse with others in this community of storytellers.
We hope you will join us this summer in this creative activity!