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Perspectives On Patients: Narrative Medicine

Dorothy Managan, 93, served as an Army nurse in Tacoma, Wa. after World War II. She recently added her life story to her medical record at the Asheville, N.C. VA Medical Center.
Jay Price
American Homefront

For many health professionals, treating patients is a matter of assessing their ailments, making a diagnosis and prescribing treatment where it is required. Then it is on to the next patient. But a new program in VA medical centers aims to make connections between medical professionals and their patients through narratives.

The Charles George VA hospital in Asheville, NC, is one of the locations of the program called “My Life, My Story.” World War II veterans tell their stories to a staff writer who condenses their narratives. The resulting document becomes part of the medical chart and can be accessed by doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with Jay Price, WUNC military reporter, about the program. He also speaks with Melanie McConnell, writer for the Asheville VA, and Dorothy Managan, a veteran participant in the program. Stasio also talks with Dr. Terrence Holt, physician and author who directs UNC’s Literature, Medicine and Culture masters program, and John Howell, National Guard member and co-facilitator of the NC Vets for Words program, a literature discussion initiative by the NC Humanities Council. 

Laura Lee was the managing editor of The State of Things until mid February 2017. Born and raised in Monroe, North Carolina, Laura returned to the Old North state in 2013 after several years in Washington, DC. She received her B.A. in political science and international studies from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2002 and her J.D. from UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law in 2007.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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