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The Examined Life: Not an ordinary medical conference

When the keynote speaker is the U.S. Poet Laureate or the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, you realize this isn’t your typical medical conference.

The Examined Life Conference: Writing, Humanities, and the Art of Medicine focuses on the intersections between the arts and medicine. This multiday conference—hosted by the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine each April since 2007—includes workshops, readings, and presentations covering everything from narrative reflection to writing in the medical education curriculum and the use of writing in caring for both patients and providers.

Presenters and participants—approximately 200 attended this year—come from around the world and across the health care and humanities fields. Featured presenters have included U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer winner Philip Levine as well as musician and author Paul Harding, who discussed how he approaches writing about illness. Harding won a 2010 Pulitzer for his debut novel, Tinkers. Both authors are graduates of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

“People are always describing the conference as an oasis for them. They can participate in it when their professional lives—for some, at least—are so diametrically opposed to engaging this part of what they feel is important to who they are as a person and a professional,” says Jason Lewis, MFA, director of the college’s Writing and Humanities Program, which organizes the conference.

Bryan Sisk, MD, who recently began a pediatrics residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, led a conference workshop this year about professionalism and the use of social media, “Swimming in the Murky Waters of Social Media—Don’t Let Your White Coat Get Dirty.”

“This conference has given me an opportunity to meet other medical professionals with a passion for writing, and it has provided insights into new roles for the humanities in medicine,” Sisk says. “I always leave the conference with a rekindled passion for writing.”

Story Source: UI Health Care Marketing and Communications, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room W319 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009

Media Contact: Dawn Goodlove, UI Health Care Marketing and Communications,