What Medicine Can Learn from Art.

Lucie Wilk is a medical doctor and author.  In this moving Ted Talk she discusses how an appreciation of  art can help doctors to understand their patients better.

“Each patient comes with a unique story. But it is my job to smooth over the uniqueness of patients and find the similarities in their stories, to determine how they match each other in symptoms or signs. It is pattern recognition. This is why a more experienced doctor is usually a better doctor. They’ve seen more and are better able to recognize a pattern, even if one or two threads are different.

But in telling a story through writing… well, in writing, differences are elaborated, celebrated. Unique oddities are what shape an individual character, breathe life into them, make them real on the page. What is smoothed over and greyed out in medicine is brought forward into striking relief in writing.

…Sometimes spending hours in a room conjuring stories produces an uncomfortable desire to question why things are done the way they are done. I think this ultimately improves the care I give my patients.”

Dr Lucie Wilk via The 49th Shelf

Dr Wilk has written a number of pieces of short fiction which have been nominated for the McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize Anthology and long-listed for a CBC Canada Writes literary prize. Her debut novel “The Strength of Bone” tells the story of an idealistic Western doctor and Malawian nurse, confronted with the realities of practicing medicine in Malawi . Details can be found here. 

Check out her website ‘Life Suture’  for an engaging collection  of musings and rants about the challenges of wholistic healthcare in contemporary medicine.

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