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Opening the word hoard
  1. G Bolton, Editor,
  2. A Howe, Professor of Primary Care and MB/BS, Course Director,
  3. N Battye, F2 doctor,
  4. A Ellis,
  5. D Gelipter, General practitioner and senior lecturer,
  6. J McIlraith, General practitioner
  1. University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  2. Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Exeter, UK
  3. ST2 Whittington GP Vocational Training Scheme, London
  4. Sheffield University, Institute of General Practice
  5. Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. Gillie Bolton, http://www.gilliebolton.com

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Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams1

This is the final Opening the word hoard.

LITERATURE AND MEDICINE: WRITING AND READING IN THE MEDICAL SCHOOL CURRICULUM

Box 1: Further reading

Charon R. Narrative medicine: honouring the stories of sickness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

Hudson Jones A. Writing and healing. Lancet 2006;368:53–4.

Reading literature, and writing to develop insight and understanding rather than publication, can both offer significant service to the medical curriculum. In this final Word hoard, five authors give their own perspective on literature and medicine, both reading and writing, in the student curriculum: three students (now young doctors) and two academics. Taken together, they form an invaluable resource for anyone developing such a course (for further reading, see box 1). A further piece is by a doctor who came to literature and medicine late: it gives an insightful, harrowing account from her student days. The reader can’t help but feel how things might have been very different for her if she’d been a Literature and Medicine student.

“I, being poor, have only my dreams; / I have spread my dreams under your feet.”1 Our sleeping dreams, and waking ones expressed in literature and writing, are our riches. To find them spread openly under our feet, we need only books to read, and pen and paper to write our own. The five fundamental principles that literature and medicine demand from us are (1) trust (in the processes of writing and literature reading); (2) self-respect (for ourselves as readers and writers); (3) responsibility (to have authority over the learning from reading and writing); (4) generosity (to the self in giving time to learn from these pursuits) and (5) positive regard (for the patients and colleagues about whom we write, and whom we reflect upon through reading). Personal professional values are considered and reassessed in the process. Trust, self-respect, …

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