Master of Science in Narrative Medicine

In 2009, Columbia University inaugurated the first and only Master of Science in Narrative Medicine.

The care of the sick unfolds in stories. The effective practice of health care requires the ability to recognize, absorb, interpret, and act on the stories and plights of others. Medicine practiced with narrative competence is a model for humane and effective medical practice. It addresses the need of patients and caregivers to voice their experience, to be heard and to be valued, and it acknowledges the power of narrative to change the way care is given and received.

The core curriculum of this pioneering MS in Narrative Medicine combines intensive exposure to narrative writing and close reading skills, literary and philosophical analysis, and experiential work, with the opportunity to apply this learning in clinical and educational settings. Core courses provide the conceptual grounding for work in narrative medicine, and introduce the direct practice of teaching narrative competence to others.

The Narrative Medicine Master’s Program seeks to strengthen the overarching goals of medicine, public health, and social justice, as well as the intimate, interpersonal experiences of the clinical encounter. The Program fulfills these objectives by educating a leadership corps of health professionals and scholars from the humanities and social sciences who will imbue patient care and professional education with the skills and values of narrative understanding.

Health care and the illness experience are marked by uneasy and costly divides: between those in need who can access care and those who cannot, between health care professionals and patients, and between and among health care professionals themselves. The study of narrative medicine is profoundly multidisciplinary field that seeks to bridge those divides. The curriculum for the Master’s Program in Narrative Medicine includes core courses in narrative understanding, the illness experience, the tools of close reading and writing; focused courses on narrative in fields like genetics, social justice advocacy, and palliative care; electives in a discipline of the student’s choosing; and field work.

Those interested in the intersection of literature, medicine, and stories of illness are invited to apply. Upon completion, graduates will be prepared to start Narrative Medicine programs at other institutions, continue on to or return to a clinical career, or forge their own career integrating narrative into their unique interests.

Narrative Medicine Fellowship

Upon graduation, graduates are invited to apply for a Post-Graduate Narrative Medicine Fellowship. The purpose of the Narrative Medicine Fellowship is to support projects that fortify the new field of Narrative Medicine both nationally and internationally. Candidates for the fellowship must be graduates of Columbia University’s Master’s of Science in Narrative Medicine who are interested in promoting narrative understanding in patient care, professional education, and curriculum development, or in forging new pathways in research important to the growth of the field of Narrative Medicine.