April Brenneman discovered the importance and power of narrative medicine through the traumatic experience of cancer in her youngest child. Writing became a natural outlet to try to process and understand her son’s cancer journey. In 2013 she painted on her son’s X-rays creating an art collection titled: Mother & Son. Her first piece, Lament 1: A Passionate Expression of Grief or Sorrow, was published in The Intima in 2014. To further her knowledge, she attended the Columbia UniversityNarrative Medicine Workshop in New York. She believes in the power of story and the ability to re-frame one’s illness narrative through writing and/or art. She has facilitated writing workshops for Write Around Portland since 2015. She coordinates and co-hosts the NWNM Collaborative Monthly Series. Passionate about her spiritual practice, she co-facilitates Contemplative Prayer and Journaling Retreats and bi-annual Companioning Conferences with Boldly Loved LLC. Since 2014 she has hosted guests from all over the world in her home through Airbnb. Hosting and holding space for others brings her great joy.
Martha Driessnack, Ph.D., PNP-BC, is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner with a background in art therapy and genetics. She says both are important in gaining insight into the intergenerational nature of stories and storytelling! Her program of research focuses on the engagement of children in health-related research using novel, child-sensitive approaches to data collection. One such approach is the Draw-and-Tell Conversation (DTC), which she developed and continues to use with children as she explores their experiences and family stories. Of particular interest is her work with children related to understanding what “runs” in their family and how children learn about genetic/health risks. She is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing at OHSU and actively involved in the OHSU Interprofessional Initiative, serving on the IPI Steering Committee and OHSU-wide Curriculum Committee. Most importantly, she teaches an interprofessional elective entitled Narrative Competence at OHSU with Elizabeth Lahti.
Rebecca Harrison, M.D., believes in the power of story to express experiences in healthcare and also to heal. She is inspired by the blending of art and science to tell our stories and believes in many paths to health and healing. She is a clinician educator, hospitalist, clerkship director and section chief in the Division of Hospital Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. In these roles, she has a unique opportunity to create culture change and promote more compassionate medical care for diverse patients, providers and learners. Dr. Harrison has facilitated narrative medicine, reflection rounds and resiliency training skills within the OHSU School of Medicine. She has published a variety of articles on medical education, hospital medicine and part-time careers and has presented at local, national and international venues on a variety of medical education and faculty wellness topics. Planning the first Northwest Narrative Medicine Conference was inspiring and fulfilling, and she looks forward to learning more about the many ways to improve healthcare delivery and influence the healthcare environment at this inaugural event.
Elizabeth Lahti, M.D., is a Portland-area clinical and teaching hospitalist. She is the Director of Narrative Medicine in the YourMD curriculum transformation at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine; and, she designed and co-facilitates the first upper level interprofessional course, Narrative Competence for Health Professionals, through the Interprofessional Education (IPE) Initiative at OHSU. She teaches narrative medicine and reflective practice to trainees and faculty with a particular interest in identity formation and resilience through story. She was awarded the 2017 Exceptional Mentorship Award by the American Medical Women’s Association and believes that micro-generational storytelling between students, residents and practicing physicians contributes to professional fulfillment. Dr. Lahti is a member of the Full Frontal Writing Collective, a group of writers who meet weekly to practice and support each other in writing endeavors. Her writing has been published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and the Elohi Gaduji Journal.
Lois Leveen, Ph.D is a Kienle Scholar in Medical Humanities at Penn State College of Medicine. A novelist (Juliet’s Nurse and The Secrets of Mary Bowser), poet, and educator, Dr. Leveen holds degrees from Harvard University, the University of Southern California, and UCLA. She is a frequent speaker and workshop leader at conferences, museums, libraries, high schools, colleges and universities across North America. Her work in the medical humanities focuses on how content and approaches from literary studies, history, and the visual arts, and related fields can foster greater reflection for individuals and deepen bonds of community among healthcare practitioners, students, patients, and families. She has been published in/on The New York Times, the Atlantic, the Chicago Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angelas Review of Books, the Huffington Post, NPR, and C-SPAN. For more information, see humanitiesforhealth.org.
Ellen Michaelson, M.D., M.F.A., is a Portland physician and writer. She is the founder of HealthMax Primary Care, a Narrative Medicine practice in NW Portland. She was an NEH Fellow in Medical Humanities and has an MFA in Writing. It has been a long-standing interest of Ellen to see narrative medicine come to life in Portland. On faculty in the Division of General Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University, she is joined each year by medical students who shadow her and take part in patient care. She has run writing workshops for medical students and for patients with chronic illnesses, and looks forward to involving the larger community in our shared stories.
Julia “Jay” Ruby is a medical student at Oregon Health & Science University. She was a Creative Writing major in college, and was thrilled to learn that narrative medicine is now a part of OHSU’s curriculum. Since starting medical school, she has been a leader of the Family Medicine Interest Group, Students for LGBTQ health, and worked as a peer facilitator for OHSU’s Structural Competency program (which works to incorporate issues of social justice into the MD curriculum). In her spare time, Jay volunteers at Outside In’s Project Erase tattoo removal program, writes poetry, and is in pursuit of Portland’s tastiest spaghetti. She is excited to serve as NWNMC’s Student Liaison and find new ways to incorporate creativity into medical education.
Niki Steckler, Ph.D., teaches and coaches academic leaders and healthcare professionals on how to increase their leadership capabilities in order to make a meaningful difference in health and healthcare. Her methods for teaching emotional intelligence and influence center around awareness of the stories we are telling ourselves (and others) and how greater awareness and choice about our narratives can help us reframe and broaden our understanding of what is happening around us and what it means. Dr. Steckler has won awards for her teaching excellence; she currently teaches graduate courses and professional development workshops on becoming an effective manager, influence and communication skills for leaders and increasing human sustainability in healthcare contexts. She is currently an Associate Professor of Management in the School of Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University. She holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from Harvard University.
Deborah Woodcock, M.B.A., is an informatician and program manager at the Oregon Health & Science University Informatics Discovery Lab. Formerly a science writer and journalist, Ms. Woodcock studies how information technology and sociotechnical factors influence communication among patients, caregivers, and healthcare providers. She and her canine companion have served as an animal-assisted therapy team, and she currently serves as a Scientific Research Advocate at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.
Julia Burns graduated from Lewis & Clark College in 2016 with a degree in English and Rhetoric & Media Studies. She first became interested in narrative medicine while writing her senior thesis, which uses a women’s sexual pain disorder to illustrate the shortcomings of biomedicine when dealing with chronic pain. Her work argues for an interdisciplinary approach to medicine. Through reflective writing and academic scholarship, Julia has found great success in the healing process for her own invisible illness. Her studies have led her to pursue a career in women’s health, where she hopes to advocate for women’s health and health education.