Storytelling in Medicine

Storytelling in Medicine

Jan. 15, 2024

Join in storytime with EMRA*Cast host Kyle Duke, MD, of Prisma Health Greenville, and Avir Mitra, MD, of Mount Sinai/Icahn School of Medicine (and content creator for NPR, Radiolab, Vice, and more). Dr. Mitra explains why storytelling is a key skill in medicine.


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Kyle Duke, MD

Prisma Health - Greenville
EMRA*Cast Episodes


Avir Mitra, MD

Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Assistant Professor of Medical Education, Icahn School of Medicine

Content creator for NPR, Radiolab, Vice, and more

Since the beginning of time, storytelling is how we would pass along information and learn new things. So why are doctors bad at it? Today we sit down with  Avir Mitra, MD, an EM doc who also has created stories for Vice, NPR, Radiolab, and more. Dr. Mitra talks with host Kyle Duke, MD, about what makes a good story and why storytelling is still relevant in medicine.


  • Chapter 1: What is storytelling? A tool. A way we can share wisdom and knowledge. We used stories in medical school to remember small details (cough Sketchy cough). It is also a way for us to connect with our patients. To help them understand their disease a little bit better and help them ask the right questions.
  • Chapter 2: What makes a good story?:
    • Taking the listener on a journey. Don’t focus on a topic, rather focus on a character that walks through the topic. Have this character go on a journey with surprise and change.
    • Meaning Making: Make sure the story is relevant to the person you are telling it to. They will be thinking “why does this matter to me?”
    • Struggle/High Stakes: Life isn’t easy. People can relate to stories when there is struggle and when the stakes are high. It adds to the story and draws people in. Make sure these are a part of the story.
    • Emotion: All good stories evoke emotion, whether it be anger, happiness, sadness, etc. Make sure you bring emotion into the story.
    • Relatability: Going back to meaning making, a story needs to be relatable for someone to buy in. Make sure you see it from the listeners point of view. If they can't relate, they won't be able to engage as well.
  • Chapter 3: How can we be better storytellers?: "Explain it to me like I am 5." It always helps to simplify things, especially in medicine. Sometimes we only have a few minutes with our patients, and we can't create an entire story for them. So explain it as simply as possible.
  • Chapter 4: Why are doctors bad at storytelling? Doctors are afraid to look dumb, or look as if they don’t understand something. But asking questions, whether they seem dumb or not, is what helps us learn. It helps us truly understand something. We need to stop approaching conversations as a paternalistic relationship of "I am the doctor, you are the patient" and engage in a mutual conversation where a story is told to explain the situation and where patients feel comfortable asking questions.

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