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Narrative Medicine Conference

About the conference

 A Narrative Future for Health Care

Launch of the

International Network for Narrative Medicine

Co-Sponsored by the

Centre for the Humanities and Health at King’s College London


The Program in Narrative Medicine, Columbia University, NY

June 19-21, 2013

At King’s Guy’s Hospital Campus, London

Humanities scholars, social scientists and clinicians are learning to write and read clinical discourse in ways that take account of developing narratological thinking in literature, philosophy and ethics. They have started to recognize and describe narrative impulse, shape, and techniques in clinical conversations, observations and illness-related life-writings of patients, care-givers and writers. Narrative medicine has emerged from elements of literary theory, cultural studies, creative writing and artistic practice, disability studies, narrative ethics, and history of medicine, which intersect with the professional disciplines of nursing, social work, medicine, and the psychotherapies.

Conference Objectives:

1. To convene broad international interest in the place of narrative knowledge and practices in health care

2. To expand our appreciation of the role of creativity in the care of the sick

3. To focus on global narrative health care futures

4. To sharpen and critique narrative concepts in relation to clinical practices and training methods

5. To examine current goals in teaching, research, and clinical care

6. To articulate the risks of narrative practices in health care

7. To strategize means of influencing mainstream clinical institutions

8. To raise the visibility of narrative concepts and methods in health care policy discourse

9. To interrogate how Illness Narrative should be theorized

10. To situate Narrative Medicine in the context of other clinical and scientific developments such as ‘Personalised Medicine’.


 The care of the sick is being influenced by narrative knowledge and narrative methods.  Since the rise of interest in the contributions of humanities, social sciences, and the arts to health care in the mid-1970s, patients, carers, scholars, and health care professionals have developed increasingly rigorous and evocative means to bring the power of narrative and story-based knowledge into the routines of clinical work. The result is an international upsurge in the scholarship, writing, research, clinical and teaching of narrative medicine and narrative-based practices, which promises to improve health care.

  Narrative knowledge and practice are now being used in distinctly new ways, equipping health care staff to look beyond disease-framed chronological history-taking towards open interviewing and relational styles of communication that  deploy oral history and literary critical techniques. Persons seeking help with their health are experimenting with fresh means of representing situations, while clinicians are learning how to create and decode representations of illnesses that are not symptomatically honed according to textbook accounts. Nurses and doctors are learning how to solicit and understand widely differing accounts of illness experiences, to diagnose and treat illnesses in view of the way personal and social identities are altered by disease, to critique the power relationships within health care settings, and to validate the intersubjective work accomplished in medicine through talk and touch. Clinical educators are beginning to equip trainees with creative writing skills that enable them to use writing as a means of discovery, reflection and interpretation.

Practitioners of this field bring narratological theories of representation, philosophical concepts of intersubjectivity, and psychoanalytic concepts of transference to bear on clinical interpretation and action. As a result, the individual clinician-patient interaction deepens and health care teams achieve more meaningful collaborations. The health professional-public contract is strengthened and individual patients and clinicians gain greater access to their own interior realities. Narrative Medicine has thereby become abona fide field broadening clinical vision to include within its purview meaning, value, interiority, affiliation, and narrativity.

  This conference marks the profile of narrative studies in relation to medicine internationally. A partnership between the Centre for the Humanities and Health of King’s College London and the Program in Narrative Medicine of Columbia University invites you to attend A Narrative Future for Health Care, the official launch of the International Network for Narrative Medicine. The Conference aims to form a world-wide clearing house to bring together scholars and clinicians committed to a narratively fortified health service. With mature work taking place throughout the Americas, UK, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australasia, an international network is needed to intensify our work, to identify colleagues, to broaden the reach of this work, and to learn from one another.

Conference Structure

 The two-and-a-half day conference will be structured with one plenary lecture per half-day and concurrent break-out sessions for workshops or paper sessions complementing the plenary sessions. The conference will thread a number of intensive small group workshops through the duration of the conference for participants who elect to participate in such training. These groups will meet during one part of the break-out session schedule, enabling participants also to take part in some of the parallel sessions. They will be facilitated by Narrative Medicine Faculty from Columbia University. Each small group will be composed of 8 to 10 conference attendees whose members will remain constant throughout the duration of the conference.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

Catherine Belling

Havi Carel

Peter Carey

Arthur Frank

Ann Jurecic 

John Launer

David Small

General Chairs

Brian Hurwitz, MD

Rita Charon, MD, PhD

Maura Spiegel, PhD

Nellie Hermann, MFA

Neil Vickers, DPhil

James Whitehead, PhD

Please contact Scott Alderman ( if you have any questions regarding the conference or the submission of abstracts.

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