The author comments initially that most physicians become involved in the stories of their patients' lives--as witnesses, chroniclers, and players. He uses as an example the story of a physician's role in the death of Anton P. Chekhov. Another interesting example is the book, A Fortunate Man (see this database), the story of an English country doctor who matures in the profession and comes to recognize the task of the doctor as one to help his patients feel recognized.

Dr. Verghese believes that all patients seen by physicians are in the midst of a story that begins the moment they walk through the portals of a hospital or a clinic. He sees the challenge as engaging the patient and the family in finding an "epiphany," even if that epiphany is simply the understanding that there is nothing more that can be done medically. In his conclusion he says that as physicians we should be ministers of healing, storytellers, storymakers, and players in the stories of our patients and ourselves.


This is a very well written and interesting essay on the importance of stories and storytelling in the lives of physicians. Because Dr. Verghese is so well known as a master storyteller and caring physician, he is an important role model for students. They listen to his message.


This essay was part of the feature, "Medical Writing/ Physician-Writers' Reflections on Their Work" in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Primary Source

Annals of Internal Medicine (135, No 11: 1012-1016, 2001)


American College of Physicians

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