Department of Pathology Updates - Vol 2.5

By Jeffrey Myers | January 23 2017

Teammates and colleagues,

Welcome to another edition of DOP Updates, an email sent to members and stakeholders in our Department of Pathology (DOP) with the hope of sparking conversations around things that matter in our journey to transform the experience of patients and families today and tomorrow.  Please send me an email if you have something that you would like to include in a future edition of Updates.


Time passing

Shuffling along the nearly deserted hallway at a slow and agonizing pace, his small misshapen shoes served as testimony to the orthopedic nightmare that lay within.  His right arm tightly wrapped in a splint was rendered all but useless.  The large ears that hung from his head had long ago outrun the size of his face but were well matched to the long droop of his jowls.  Sad eyes permanently downcast as his large and unwieldy cane tapped an unsteady cadence that matched his gait. 

I watched and slowed a bit.  This is what awaits those who survive.  In him was my father surrendering to all of his 90 years . . . imagining himself a burden to those who loved him most. 

He tentatively lifted his eyes and peered into my own through large wire-rimmed glasses.  I reached deep within to beam a smile that broadcast compassion and love rather than the things that dwell too much in my heart.  He quickly looked away, seemingly hurt that anyone would pity his plight before knowing who he remains at his core. 

. . . and then I prayed.


If a story moves you, act on it

Stories are an important part of the human experience.  For as long as I can remember I’ve loved listening to stories told by others, usually tuning in to The Moth Radio Hour, This American Life, and TED talks on the weekend to hear strangers share pieces of their journey to educate and enlighten others that they might somehow change the world.  Stories often inspire us and help us peak into corners of the world that would otherwise remain opaque or dark.  Our Patients and Families Advisory Council (PFAC) is learning the power of stories to bring us closer to understanding that the needs of patients and families are the needs that matter most in all that we do whether it be the care we offer today, education of those who will care for us, or the discoveries that will change the lives of patients not yet born.  Indeed it was on Thursday, March 24, 2016 that members of our MiP3 project spent an hour with Linda Larin to learn more about the stories in her book, Inspired to Change. Improving Patient Care One Story at a Time, that the very idea of a PFAC was born!  More recently members of our PFAC opened a dialogue with leadership at StoryCorps’ Legacy project to understand how we might partner with them to more effectively catalogue and archive the stories that unfold around us every day so that we can tap them more regularly to maintain the momentum of our quest to transform the experience of our patients and families from a pathology platform.


And yet it is not the tellers of stories, but those who hear them who are most responsible for translating the experience of others into the actions that might change the world.  In an entertaining and thought-provoking TED talk entitled, If a story moves you, act on it, Sisonke Msimang (head of programs for the Centre for Stories) reminds us that stories are not a substitute for facts and by themselves solve little.  She describes are growing appetite for stories as a trend that carries risks should we confuse listening with action.  Her talk will demand a little less than 13 minutes of your time, and is worth the investment given the increasing use of stories – some true to real experiences while others increasingly conflate fiction with facts –  to move listeners to action in all sectors of our lives.

She concludes that, “it is justice that makes the world a better place, not stories” and asks three things of those who are the listeners rather than the tellers of stories.

  • Be more curious and more skeptical, and ask more questions about the social context that spawned the stories that move you.
  • Recognize, value and support the intellectual work that storytelling represents.
  • Switch off your phone, step away from your screen, and explore the real world as it exists just beyond the limits of your own well-worn comfort zones. 


She finishes by quoting Alice Walker who reminded us to, “Look closely at the present that you are constructing, it should look like the future you are dreaming.” 

Thanks for tuning in to this edition of DOP Updates.  Send me an email if you have comments, concerns or questions about today’s message or have something else you’d like to contribute to a future edition.  In the meantime, let’s be careful out there . . .