Asheville Hosts Narrative Healthcare Symposium

MAHEC CEO Dr. Jeff Heck

MAHEC CEO Dr. Jeff Heck

Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville (LRA) and Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) team up on Friday and Saturday, October 18–19, at MAHEC to present Medicine Beyond Medication: Narrative Healthcare Symposium. The event for healthcare practitioners in surgery, general practice, nursing, counseling and public health will kick off on Friday with a lecture by narrative medicine pioneer and literary scholar Dr. Rita Charon titled “The Humanities Have What Medicine Needs.” Panel discussions and break-out and facilitated sessions will continue all day on Saturday with a lunch keynote by Dr. Jeff Heck, CEO of MAHEC.

Organizer Laura Hope-Gill, MFA, is director of the Narrative Healthcare and Master of Arts in Writing programs at LRA. In 2014, she trained at Columbia University in order to offer a narrative medicine program at LRA. “I recognized upon reading about it that narrative medicine is what medicine needs and that people with MFAs in writing are the ones who can help develop it,” she says. “I love working at the intersections and this was such a beautiful union. My father was a doctor and he urged me not to follow him, saying poetry was the finer means for finding the truth. I always felt, though, that medicine and poetry were connected.”

An Iowa resident and retired surgeon, Daniel J. Waters received his graduate certificate in narrative healthcare in 2016, and his MA in writing in 2018, both from LRA. Waters now teaches a seminar on narrative medicine for second-year students at the medical school in Des Moines. During the symposium, he and other LRA program graduates will engage members of their own fields through exercises in narrative medicine, medical humanities, expressive arts and poetic medicine.

“I think narrative medicine benefits both patients and those who care for them,” Waters says. “By training doctors or other professionals to a higher level of narrative competence, patients’ stories are better understood and, hopefully, that allows better and more empathetic care to be delivered. On the flip side, narrative medicine should help doctors process the emotional strain that comes with the job and help them be ‘in the moment’ with the patients they care for while still maintaining objectivity and psychic distance.”

To learn more and to register, visit MAHEC is located at 121 Hendersonville Road in Asheville. Learn more about programs at Lenoir-Rhyne Asheville at

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