Columbia University Irving Medical Center

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Narrative Palliative Care: A Basic Narrative Medicine Workshop

March 23, 2018 @ 10:00 am - March 25, 2018 @ 1:00 pm

MARCH 23-25, 2018

Registration Full

Contact Kimberly La Force to be added to the wait list.

Palliative care has shown the courage and creativity to accompany patients through the sufferings of terminal illnesses. As a model of clinical practice attuned to the singular situations of each patient, family, and clinician, palliative care has achieved an ideal of narrative medicine: a care that embodies real presence, on-going personal investment, and radical listening to the stories of those living in the face of death—whenever and however far away that may be. Whether care is provided in in-patient acute care settings, ambulatory clinics, hospices, or patients’ homes, narrative palliative care shows what dignified, respectful, humble care of the sick and the well should always be.

The Workshop in Narrative Palliative Care welcomes guest faculty B.J. Miller and Craig Blinderman, two international pioneers in a narratively and creatively fortified palliative care to join the core faculty of Columbia’s Narrative Medicine for a weekend of personal and professional exploration.

Narrative medicine’s signature methods of close reading, writing for discovery, and visual and performative learning provide the workshop with intensive training in the creative dimensions of palliative care where trust and vision can grow. To expand the scope of our conversation, narratively trained clinicians will present their lessons in international palliative care, care management in home hospice, student and resident self-care within palliative care, and spiritual dimensions of narrative care at the end of life. Participants will deepen their understanding of the place of story-telling in the care of serious illness, both for patients’ and family’s support and for clinicians’ existential well-being. We hope persons engaged in all clinical disciplines, palliative care, narrative medicine, patient advocates, and creative artists involved in health will join us.

The Basic Narrative Medicine Workshop’s first-time participants will derive foundational training in narrative medicine concepts and methods that are covered in our twice-yearly Basic Narrative Medicine Workshops. Participants who have already completed a Basic Narrative Medicine Workshop will experience new lectures and small group activities to begin on Friday, March 23rd at 2 pm and conclude on Sunday, March 25th at 5 pm. All members of the Core Faculty of Narrative Medicine will give presentations and facilitate small groups. These lectures will not be repeated from prior Basic Narrative Medicine Workshops. Completing this workshop will make participants eligible to enroll in a future Advanced Narrative Medicine Workshop.

 Register Here



Friday March 23, 2018

1:30 Registration
2:30 Rita Charon MD, PhD introduces Narrative Palliative Care weekend workshop
3:00 “The Myth of Chiron–Responding to Suffering and Requests for Physician Assisted Suicide”
Craig Blinderman MD, MA,  FAAHPM
4:15 “Can We Let the Baby Go?” Creative presentation by Novelist Nellie Hermann from her story.
Nellie Hermann, MFA
5:15 Small Group Seminars
6:30 Reception at Coogan’s Restaurant

Saturday March 24, 2018

8:30 Continental Breakfast
9:00 “Making Sense”
Guest Speaker BJ Miller MD
10:45 Small Group Seminars
12:15 Lunch
1:30 “Creativity, Mediation and Representation: Toward Managing Difficult Experiences”
Maura Spiegel, PhD & Nellie Hermann, MFA
3:15 Small Group Seminars
4:45 Adjournment

Sunday March 25, 2018

8:30 Continental Breakfast
9:00 “Narrative Ethics and the Embodiment of Clinical Care”
Craig Irvine PhD & Deepthiman Gowda, MD, MPH, MS
10:45 Small Group Seminars
12:15 Lunch
1:30 Small Group Seminars
3:15 Panel Discussion: Narrative and Practice

Clinicians using Narrative Methods in Palliative Care. Moderated by Deepthiman Gowda, MD, MPH, MS

5:00 Adjournment

Narrative Medicine

The effective care of the sick requires deep and singular knowledge of the patient, competence and commitment of the physician, and a sturdy bond of trust between the two. Despite the many sociocultural and professional factors that may divide doctors and patients and the impact of political and economic pressures on health care as a whole, effective medical practice needs to replace hurried and impersonal care with careful listening, empathic attention, and personal fidelity. Narrative medicine is one cost-effective and evidence-based method to equip health care professionals with the skills needed to respond to the challenge. By fortifying clinical practice with the ability to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by stories of illness, narrative training enables practitioners to comprehend patients’ experiences and to understand what they themselves undergo as clinicians. Professionalism, cultural competence, bioethical competence, interpersonal communication skills, self-reflective practice, and ability to work with health care teams can be strengthened by increasing narrative competence.

Many persons engaged in health care, either as patients or providers, are hungry to give and receive care. Attentive listening, creative contact, singular accuracy, and personal fidelity have gone missing from the routines of our practices. Among the many responses to the failures of our current health care system is Narrative Medicine. Developed at Columbia University in 2000, Narrative Medicine fortifies clinical practice with the ability to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved by stories of illness. We realize that the care of the sick unfolds in stories, and we recognize that the central event of health care is for a patient to give an account of self and a clinician to skillfully receive it.

The clinical routines and the teaching methods of Narrative Medicine, our experience and research show, can transform practice and training. Time-tested teaching approaches can help participants who seek to convey to their learners the skills of empathic interviewing, reflective practice, narrative ethics, self-awareness, and creating and sustaining healing intersubjective contact with patients and colleagues.

Come work and study with us for a weekend. Gather with colleagues from the world over to learn the narrative skills of close reading, attentive listening, and creative writing. Find out how your own imagination can reveal things you know unawares. Experience the deep bonds that can form among clinicians and those who care about health care in short periods of small group intensive narrative work. Recognize and be recognized as one who has care within them.


We invite nurses, physicians, dentists, chaplains, social workers, therapists, public health professionals and other clinicians, as well as writers, academics, scholars and all those interested in the intersection of narrative and medicine to join us. By combining these groups of participants, we can all learn how to unify what are sometimes divided efforts in patient care, integrating the ethical awareness and sensibility with the clinical recognition that can ensue.

Guest Speakers

B.J. Miller MD

Dr. BJ Miller is a Hospice & Palliative Medicine physician and sees patients and families at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he also teaches and serves on faculty. His interests are in working across disciplines to affect broad-based culture change and in cultivating a civic model for aging and dying. He invites us to think about and discuss the end of our lives through the lens of a mindful, human-centered model of care, one that embraces dying not as a medical event but rather as a universally shared life experience.

Informed by his own experiences as a patient, BJ powerfully advocates the roles of our senses, community and presence in designing a better ending. He brings a unique blend of training, experience and commitment to furthering the message that suffering and dying are fundamental and intrinsic aspects of life and is widely recognized for his efforts in cultivating a larger dialogue about this universal human experience. BJ and his coauthor, Shoshana Berger, are currently writing a practical manual for preparing for death that will be a highly practical and provocative guide to navigating dying in contemporary American society.

Dr. Craig D. Blinderman, MD, MA, FAAHPM

Dr. Craig Blinderman is the Director of the Adult Palliative Medicine Service at Columbia University Medical Center/New-York Presbyterian Hospital and an Associate Professor of Medicine in the Department of Medicine, Columbia University, College of Physicians & Surgeons. He is also the Program Director for the Columbia University Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship.

He has published numerous articles on palliative care, comfort, cancer pain and its management, existential distress, ethical issues at the end of life, and the impact of early palliative care for cancer patients. His academic interests include decision-making at the end of life, medical ethics, the role of palliative care in public health, and teaching communication skills to improve the care of seriously ill patients. He maintains a deep interest in philosophy of medicine and the role of contemplative care practices in the care of seriously ill patients.


Rita Charon, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine at Columbia, narratologist and Jamesian, Executive Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine, author ofNarrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness.

Nellie Hermann, MFA, Creative Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine, novelist, architect of Columbia’s faculty development in writing for clinicians, author of The Cure for Grief and The Season of Migration.

Craig Irvine, PhD, Director of the Master of Science in Narrative Medicine graduate program at Columbia, Lecturer in Narrative Medicine at Columbia, phenomenologist and memoirist, author of “The Other Side of Silence: Levinas, Medicine, and Literature.”

Maura Spiegel, PhD, Professor of English at Columbia, Interim Director of Columbia’s American Studies Program, Victorianist and cinema scholar, editor of The Grim Reader and author of the forthcoming biography of film director Sidney Lumet.

Deepthiman Gowda, MD, MPH, MS, Associate Professor of Medicine at Columbia University and Director of Clinical Practice of the Program in Narrative Medicine. Dr. Gowda is a general internist, photographer, and teacher/researcher in the teaching of visual arts in health care settings. He is also a current Macy Foundation Faculty Scholar.

Comments from Recent Participants:

“I am seeing more the value of narrative medicine – bringing us beyond the superficial to appreciating more the richness and complexity of our lives.”
Tom McNeil, Social Worker
Cape Breton Cancer Centre, Nova Scotia, Canada

“I wish I could attend a workshop every few months. There’s something about having a community of practice that replenishes and inspires. The workshop made me more confident to move forward with [my narrative] project: why not me? why not now?”
Kathy Kirkland, Palliative Care Physician
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Hanover, NH, USA

Participants Will:

  • Develop the narrative competence to nourish empathic doctor-patient relationships
  • Learn narrative communication strategies for patient-centered and life-framed practice
  • Build habits of reflective practice that enhance professionalism and nurture clinical communities
  • Acquire pedagogic skills to teach methods of narrative medicine
  • Replace isolation with affiliation, cultivate enduring collegial alliances, and reveal meaning in clinical practice

Held at the Columbia University Medical Center campus, these weekends will provide opportunities for individual consultations with faculty, shared meals, informal social gatherings, and access to the cultural offerings of New York City.


  • $1000 for participants with income over $100,000/year
  • $850 for income between $45,000 and $100,000/year
  • $500 for income under $45,000/year

(includes syllabus, meals during workshop hours, and readings). Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodations. When available, the early bird registration offers $50 off all tuition amounts.

Discounts for cohorts:

Based on our experience that cohorts of participants from an institution are better able to continue their narrative learning and to ignite narrative projects at their home institution, we now offer a discount of $100 on the tuition for each individual who attends within a cohort of two or more.If you plan to come with a cohort, reach out to Kimberly LaForce at for more information on how to register for the discount.


Columbia University Medical Center
Hammer Health Sciences Building
701 W. 168th Street
New York, NY 10032


Participants are responsible for their own accommodations. Click here to access the Columbia University Travel Portal to book preferred hotels with a discount.  The Edge Hotel is the only hotel within walking distance, other hotels like Hotel Cliff, Saint Nicholas Inn and Aloft Harlem are a short subway ride away. Please visit Google Maps for an idea of proximity and location.

The workshop itself takes place in northern Manhattan, in the “Washington Heights” neighborhood, near Broadway and 168th Street (which is different than the main Columbia University campus at 116th St). There are many affordable apartments to rent within walking distance through We recommend staying as far west as possible.

Continuing Education Credits

AMA Continuing Medical Education

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons designates this live activity for a maximum of 16 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

International activities for AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™
Physicians may earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ for participa¬tion in some international activities. As of this writing, the AMA has agreements with the European Union of Medical Specialists and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Information about the different ways to earn AMA PRA credit through international activities can be found on the AMA website at

Continuing Dental Education

Columbia University College of Dental Medicine is an ADA CERP Recognized Provider 11/1/13 through 12/31/17. ADA CERP is a service of the American Dental Association to assist dental professionals in identifying quality providers of continuing dental education. ADA CERP does not approve or endorse individual courses or instructors, nor does it imply acceptance of credit hours by boards of dentistry.Concerns or complaints about a CE provider may be directed to the provider or to ADA CERP at

Participants: Continuing Education credits awarded for participation in the CE activity may not apply toward license renewal in all states. It is the responsibility of each participant to verify the requirements of his/her licensing board(s) and to report credits to the appropriate authority.

Continuing Education Credits for Social Workers

16 contact hours will be awarded for NYS, NJ and CT licensed social workers. Licensed Social Workers for other states, please refer to your state licensing agency and email In order to receive your continuing education certificate, you must attend the entire workshop. Certificates will be emailed within 30 days of the workshop. CSSW is an approved NYSED provider for continuing education contact hours and a CSWE accredited institution.

Continuing Nursing Education Credits

Columbia University School of Nursing is accredited as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation. The Columbia University School of Nursing designates this live activity for a maximum of 16 CNE credit hours. Nurses should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.


Columbia University makes every effort to accommodate individuals with disabilities. If you require disability accommodations to for this event, please contact the Office of Disability Services at 212-854-2388 or at least 10 days in advance of the event. We will do our best to arrange accommodations received after this deadline but cannot guarantee them.

Follow our past workshops:

For general questions, please contact Kimberly La Force:


March 23, 2018 @ 10:00 am
March 25, 2018 @ 1:00 pm
Event Category:


Columbia University Irving Medical Center
701 W. 168th Street
New York, NY 10032 United States
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Open to public