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Common Reading 2019: Johanna Shapiro, Elena Bezzubova, and Ronald Koons

"Medical Students Learn to Tell Stories about Their Patients and Themselves"

"The inclusion of narrative medicine approaches in the medical education is intended to stimulate critical thinking, develop moral imagination, and foster the desire to act beneficently to promote patient wellfare."

—Drs. Shapiro, Bezzubova, and Koons

Johanna Shapiro, Elena Bezzubova, and Ronald Koons

Johanna Shapiro is director of the Program in Medical Humanities and Arts at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. She is also a professor of family medicine. Her research focuses on the patient-doctor relationship, attitudes and skills of empathy and professionalism, and the uses of the arts and literature in medical education.


Elena Bezzubova is a practicing psychoanalyst at the New Center for Psychoanalysis in Los Angeles and an assistant clinical professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. Her interests in her field include personalization and depersonalization, the doctor-patient relationship, the psychology of health care professionals, and philosophical and moral aspects of medicine. 


Ronald Koons is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Medicine at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine. His research focuses on biomedical ethics and patient-centered care and their implications for mind-body medicine.

Discussion Questions

1. How could storytelling in this environment be helpful to the medical students?


2. What is the difference between "storytelling" and "case presentation"?


3. Can you think of other career fields that could benefit by training and/or experience in storytelling?

In-Class Activities

1. Have students research the benefits of storytelling in their preferred field. If students are not sure of their preferred field, they could research how storytelling benefits something that they are passionate about.


Pavithra Vivekanand is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Susquehanna University. She received her PhD from Wesleyan University and was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and the University of Chicago. She currently teaches classes such as Cell Biology and Genetics, Cancer Biology, Developmental Biology, and Perspectives, among others.

Introduction by Pavithra Vivekanand