Gary Winzelberg, Associate Professor of Geriatric Medicine & Associate Director of UNC's Palliative Care Program on "Serendipity" in the ICU
Gary Winzelberg, Associate Professor of Geriatric Medicine & Associate Director of UNC’s Palliative Care Program on “Serendipity” in the ICU

Seven storytellers presented during the first UNC Story Slam on October 10, 2018, held during the Fifth Annual Sheldon Resident Research Symposium. There were no Power Point presentations and no written speeches, just the doctors and their memories.

“It is rare to find yourself involved in something bigger, working with a higher power,” said Gary Winzelberg, MD, MPH, Associate Professor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Associate Director of UNC’s Palliative Care Program, as his story began. “It doesn’t happen to me often. That’s why I’m here to tell a story about a patient interaction, one that I’ll truly never forget. It was about a time on a Saturday when I was on call, and to my complete surprise, I saw a former patient while completing a consult in the ICU.”

As “Serendipity” unfolded, listeners learned about Winzelberg’s opportunity to guide this patient’s care, who could not communicate and was minutes from intubation. By remembering and accessing documentation of her advanced care preferences completed years prior, he supported her distraught family in honoring the patient’s values, resulting in a transition from intubation to comfort care. The experience was an indelible reminder of the privilege of doctoring.

“Within an audience there’s a gift given by the speaker, as they hear a story and gift into their mind and soul,” said keynote speaker Richard Wardrop III, MD, associate professor of internal medicine and pediatrics. “Then, as storytellers we also receive a gift from the audience, that gives us a venue for these experiences. That mutual exchange is a really important one and something we don’t get a chance to do very often as professionals.”

Dr. Amy Shaheen’s “Calling Doctor Husband” entertained, recalling a date with husband Nick Shaheen, MD, chief of gastroenterology, that went very wrong. Their evening ended abruptly when Amy needed urgent medical care by the doctor on call, who just happened to be her own husband. Amy narrated the humorous interactions with staff and explained how, despite the ethical conundrums, she eventually came to see and receive the treatment she needed.

Narratives and Participants included:

Ben DeMarco, MD, Resident, Internal Medicine – “Arm’s Length”

Amanda Kovacich, MD, Fellow, Pulmonary Medicine – “Exposed”

Sara Scarlet, MD, Resident Surgery – “A, B, Cs”

Steven Hochman, MD, Resident Medicine- “Pediatrics”

Amy Shaheeh, MD, Attending, Medicine – “Calling Doctor Husband”

Gary Winzelberg, MD, Attending Palliative Care – “Serendipity”

Jennifer Howell, MD, Attending OB/GYN

Audience members voted Jennifer Howell, MD, the winner. All stories were recorded for possible inclusion in the Annals of Medicine.