Katrina Gray: Hello, Lorenzo! There are two ways we could look at your group, Narrative Medicine. It could be a place for therapeutic stories and poems (really, the best medicine, though my insurance plan *still* refuses to reimburse me for books), or it could be for stories about healthcare. What was your intention when you created the group?

Lorenzo Sewanan: My intention in creating the group was to present a space/theme for the writing of stories concerning medicine, whether from patient, doctor, advocate — all perspectives are valid. I believe that medicine cannot afford to have just the clinical perspective, and this is echoed by current emphases on patient-centered care and evidence-based medicine. Complementary to this is the fact that as you say, stories are good medicine, as a favorite blogger of mine, Dr. Dasgupta,¬† likes to write about. So, really, I want to see and promote stories from all perspectives about experiences in medicine.

What is your connection to medicine? Doctor, nurse, patient, advocate?

So, I’m actually a student working towards becoming a physician and am currently applying to medical school. My stories/poetry often arise from my experiences as a patient, relative, and EMT.

However, I’m quite active with AMSA, the medical student association, where I am a leader in Wellness and Student Life/Medical Education, a participant in the Medical Humanities Group, and the current host of the AMSA National Book Discussion Webinar Series. In fact, I first became interested in Narrative Medicine after attending the AMSA Medical Humanities Institute, Bearing Witness.

What’s your personal choice of narrative medicine? What have you read that would fit perfectly in your group?

Personally, I like poetry for narrative medicine. I like finding the right word, the right place to put it,and establish the right rhythm.

When I read healthcare¬†narratives, it’s the tragic stories that are the most compelling for me, that illicit my empathy. Tell me, as both a reader and a writer, do you think that gripping, captivating fiction can be written about healthcare situations that go *right*?

For me, few things are more emotional, and I find it a powerful medium for conveying the raw emotions of medical interactions and relationships, where intimacy, trust, fear, pain all collide so brutally sometimes.

Are you bold enough to continue this metaphor? “Writing is like surgery.”

Writing is like surgery, but it takes more than the knife to heal.

This is your last chance to tell us more about yourself. Publications? Pets? Summer vacation plans? Favorite ice cream flavor? Spill it, Lorenzo.

So, right now, I’m sitting in the basement of Brutalist concrete building, getting ready to dissect some electrical fish. Not too interesting, but I’m spending the summer doing research in biomechanics and electrical fish biology, learning more about the mystery of mysteries called life. ¬†Later this summer, I’m planning to go on vacation in Suriname (South America) which is where my family is originally from.

And, by far, I am hoping to enjoy some vanilla ice cream!

As for publications, I’, just starting out, but I have published essays in 115 Vernon( a local journal), poetry in Slate Literary Magazine (a local literary magazine) and The New Physician (Med Student magazine). I write regularly for my blog at http://rrrenzo.blogspot.com/.

Katrina Gray checks in with Fictionaut groups every Friday. She lives in Nashville with the writer John Minichillo and their lovechild. She is the editor-in-chief of Atticus Review, and she blogs about mostly non-literary things at www.katrinagray.com.

  1. J. Mykell Collinz

    Thanks for the informative exchange Katrina and Lorenzo, interesting concept. Narrative medicine can be therapeutic, yes: preventive and palliative, also, by revealing some of “the mystery of mysteries called life.”

  2. Linda Simoni-Wastila

    Wow, this is very cool. I was thinking of forming my own fictionaut group around the theme of medicine and health and here you are. I’ll be checking out the group and your blog. I’m a pharmacist, btw. I do drugs ;^) Peace…

  3. susan tepper

    Very interesting idea for a group. Enjoyed this interview a lot. I’m fascinated by medicine and will def have to send something medically-oriented to your group.

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