The Power of a Label
A recent post by Don S. Dizon on kevinmd.com on the lexicon of oncology generated a string of responses from followers. His post focused on how clinicians often use descriptors such as the ‘lymphoma patient’ or the ‘sarcoma in room 4’ to characterize their patients, and how such labeling can be stigmatizing (although Dizon doesn’t use this term), and can trap patients in identities that are damaging and disempowering.
On the contrary, patients are human beings who deserve to be accorded respect, rather than referred to as disease labels. And the antidote to such labeling is the ability to take the patient’s perspective, to think about what it is like to be in their shoes.
This notion of patients as human is not new, of course, and is at the heart of movements such as the women’s health movement, patient-centered medicine, patient-centered communication, etc.
Going to the Movies
An arrogant surgeon is forced to cross the bridge and face cancer. To be treated as he has treated patients in the past. To feel the price they paid in his shadow. To know that existence. It’s a revealing and a valued education to know what he experiences and what he thinks, (rather than getting what our patients present, edited). If you haven’t seen it, I suggest you put it down as CME.
The film in question is The Doctor (William Hurt, Christine Lahti and Mandy Patinkin). What strikes me about the suggestion that this movie be ‘put down as CME’ is this:
The notion that sometimes the things that give us pause and from which we learn most, are the things that connect with our hearts as well as our heads, and that trigger emotional, embodied responses.
In fact, as documented in a recently published text, there’s a whole new wave in adult learning theory derived from disciplines such as neurobiology that insists on the importance of understanding learning as an embodied, collectively engendered experience, rather than as an isolated, individualized, cognitive experience that starts and ends with the self.
This theoretical impulse has already found its way into medical education through courses that use strategies such as narrative writing, theater, and, yes, movies, to prompt participants to connect with ideas and reflect on experience.
A recent example published in JCHEP is the workshop on perspective-taking developed by Paula Ross and colleagues on Using film in multicultural and social justice faculty development: Scenes from Crash.