On September 28, 2019, I attended a conference sponsored by the Philadelphia Inquirer, entitled “Telling Your Health Story”.  The conference was created to help more storytellers from the health world find their widest audience while expressing their most authentic voices.  I was particularly struck by a presentation by the director of the narrative writing program at the Temple University School of Medicine, entitled “Narrative Writing: How 10 Minutes With Pen and Paper can Change Everything”.

The attendees read Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” poem published in 1978, in which the author distills thousands of experiences from an Antiguan childhood into 49 instructions from mother to daughter.  They are delivered quickly, with precise detail, with bluntness, without apology.  We were then given 7 minutes to write in the same format as the “Girl” poem on how to be a resident physician, healthcare provider, or any other profession.  What resulted was a wonderful exercise in the act of thinking about your own experiences and taking a moment to string words together. 

The ability to engage in creative expression allows one to better relate to the world we live in, and most importantly, discover your true self.       

Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” and the Challenge of Growing Up in Medical Training