Letter from the Editors
Each time we publish a journal, our editorial board reflects back on the many narratives we have read and considered and debated. Choices are often difficult: As doctors, nurses, writers, academics, philosophers, professors and artists ourselves, we look for narratives that reveal a world or an idea that makes us pause and think about health, healthcare and the care we each bring to our lives with others. Out of the 242 submissions we received, our editors chose 48 excellent works for the Fall 2016 issue.
Many are memorable. Click on "This Story," for example, a short essay about taking the time to talk with a patient who had a difficult tale to tell by family physician Melissa Rosato. It was a piece that haunted us with its simple and evocative imagery. So, too, a stunning—silent—video entitled "This Time Nothing: Reflections on Storytelling" by Laurel Friedman Aytes, whose scholarly research at the University of California in San Diego interrogates concepts of disease, illness and disability as social formations as much as biological fact. You might be as amused as we were by Daniel Waters' story, "Ask Your Doctor," which we categorize as fiction, but the surgeon's prose feels close to the truth as well. We promise that in five minutes, reading or watching any of these pieces, you will feel different about the world. Call that "promise" our editorial mission. Your gray matter will thank us for it.
We received a record number of academic papers and singled out four that cover a range of topics: the importance of self care for humanitarian healthcare workers during the Ebola crisis; the relevance of graphic medicine, comics and sequential art in illness narratives; how breast cancer storytelling intersects with feminine identity. Kelly Goss found a different kind of approach to Narrative Medicine while writing her undergraduate thesis at NYU, giving rise to her paper "Storytelling, Illness and Carl Jung's Active Imagination: A Conversation with Dr. Rita Charon." Dr. Charon is an internist and literary scholar who directs the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University and started the Program in 2000 to teach future doctors and medical clinicians how to understand and act upon the stories of their patients.
It seems fitting that this paper arrived on the eve of the publication by Oxford University Press of The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine, a seminal book that articulates the ideas, methods, and practices of narrative medicine. Written by the founders and faculty in the Columbia program, the book provides the authoritative starting point for any clinicians or scholars committed to learning about and eventually teaching or practicing Narrative Medicine.