October 25, 1996

Speaker gives doctors tips on ‘write’ stuff

Speaker gives doctors tips on 'write' stuff

Popular television shows like E.R. and Chicago Hope have prompted an interest in hospitals and everything medical. Images of doctors staying up all night treating patients and performing acts of heroism and endurance have become a mainstay for viewing audiences.

This increased sensitivity has made many doctors turn to writing to convey an accurate account of hospital life – which is no less exciting and considerably more truthful.

Dr. Perri E. Klass, assistant professor of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, recently spoke on the subject at the 18th annual Ed Holloran Memorial Lecture, held Oct. 14 in Light Hall. Her lecture, "Telling Tales Out of Medical School," centered around the role of doctors in the growing field of medical writing.

"This is a genre just like any other genre and there are certain expectations to follow if you are going to write in it. I found out in one of my first stories that people want to hear the same thing over and over again," said Klass.

What people want to hear about is the intense pressure of medical school, the rivalries between doctors, and the life-saving or life-ending procedures.

The mundane activities of medical school fall by the wayside as anything that may counteract the intense pressure gets taken out of stories written by "insiders."

Klass recommends doctors become more familiar with the stories that are going on around them and write about those stories, not as the subject but instead as the arbiter.

"We, as doctors, have to remember what sells. We get access to people's lives at crisis points – at moments of terror, at moments of joy, at moments of pain, at moments of tragedy and at moments of tremendous happiness," said Klass.

These stories are the ones that Klass believes should be told so that the public can receive a more rounded view of the life of doctors.

"What doctors see every day is what writers know, that the world is full of stories and that we have a mandate to be nosy," said Klass.