StorySlam Rx: Humbling Moments in Medicine Shared Out Loud

January 23, 2024 by Janet Essman Franz

Medical students, faculty, physicians, and hospital staff stepped up to the microphone on January 18 to tell true stories about their most humbling moments at the sixth annual StorySlamRx: Voices in Medicine. Alpha Omega Alpha and Gold Humanism Honor Society members organized and hosted the event, held in the Hoehl Gallery. Inspired by The Moth live storytelling, story slam provides a safe space to share personal experiences and connect with others over shared emotions. For people in the medical community, telling and listening to each other’s stories facilitates wellness and quells burnout.

At a story slam in the Heohl Gallery, Simran Kalsi '24 felt inspired to tell her story about about an experience during her first clinical rotation.

Thinking introspectively, finding humility, and facing your own limitations can create difficult feelings: These feelings are easier to handle when shared with others whose journeys are similar. That was made clear by each speaker at the sixth annual “StorySlamRx: Voices in Medicine” on Thursday evening, January 18.

Larner College of Medicine students, faculty, hospital staff, and physicians from UVM and Porter medical centers stepped up to the microphone in the Hoehl Gallery to tell stories about humbling moments in their lives and reflect together on shared experiences. They explored the theme, “Humbling Moments,” through five-minute, true stories that prompted laughter, tears, and reflection from the audience of 60-plus students, faculty, physicians, and university and hospital staff.

Medical students in the Alpha Omega Alpha honor medical society (AOA) and Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) organized and hosted the event with mentorship from faculty advisors Andrea Green, M.D., professor of pediatrics, and Marie Sandoval, M.D., associate professor of medicine.

“We give space to be less than perfect, to talk about what’s hard about being a nurse, a physician, a caretaker, an educator. People laugh, cry, and share their vulnerability,” said Green. “It can be a powerful healing tool to listen to stories and tell stories without fear of being shamed, blamed, or ignored.”

There’s science behind this:  Evidence shows that sharing and telling stories enables people to find meaning and solace in difficult situations. Studies indicate that medical  storytelling, sometimes called narrative medicine, improves health providers’ mental wellbeing by renewing a sense of accomplishment, and this subsequently improves their work performance and quality of care and quells burnout.

For medical students, listening to stories told by working physicians and medical education leaders is a valuable experience, said Naomi Hodde, M.D., assistant professor of medicine and hospitalist at UVM Medical Center, where she treats cancer patients and trains staff how to have end-of-life conversations.

“We have to process the emotions that come up, and it’s important to do that with your coworkers, your nurses, your team. It’s valuable for mental health, improving connection, and preventing burnout, and to understand that is so important for medical students,” Hodde said. “As a working physician and professor at Larner, modeling that vulnerability for the students and the residents is critical, so that they can see it is okay to be emotional, and that working through it is important.”

See photos and read more, including stories told at “StorySlamRx: Voices in Medicine.”

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