Medicine, Mono-narratives, and the Asymptote of Understanding Others
Our identities are shaped by the stories we live and the stories we tell. And despite the varied and complex nature of these identities, and the narratives that underlie them, we have a natural tendency to interpret others in the context of narrowly constructed and incompletely elaborated single stories. These mono-narratives enable us to process the experiences of others in ways that make us comfortable that we do, in fact, understand their lived experiences, however different from our own. In the training of health care professionals who will be called upon to care for people wholly different from themselves, it is important to offer strategies to mitigate their tendency to think in terms of single stories of such others, and to facilitate their ability to broaden their ways of seeing and understanding others. This session will critically examine the teaching approaches that have been most commonly applied in medical education, including cultural competence, structural competency, narrative medicine, and anti-racist pedagogy. We will draw from the health humanities to explore the stories of others in this examination, and describe, as well, the limitations of these approaches and the always incomplete understanding of others that can be achieved.
Joseph Zarconi, M.D., is Professor and Chairman of Internal Medicine, Interim Associate Dean for Health Affairs, and Clinical Director for Humanities Education at the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED) College of Medicine in Rootstown, Ohio, where he also serves as course director for the reflective practice and the clinical epilogue and capstone courses. He received his M.D. degree as a member of the charter class at the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine (now NEOMED), completed residency and chief residency in internal medicine at Akron City Hospital, and completed a nephrology fellowship at the University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He is a practicing nephrologist, and has remained active in the teaching of medical students and residents. He has presented at state, national, and international meetings and co-authored peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on topics relating to medical education, narrative medical practice, narrative ethics, humanism and professionalism, and social justice, and is co-author of two books on narrative in health care. Dr. Zarconi is a member of the NEOMED Master Teacher Guild, and has been recognized as a Master Teacher by the American College of Physicians. He and his wife, Debbie, reside in west Akron.