Respecting the Journey:
The Art of Medicine

In developing the Art of Medicine and throughout his work, Michael Linenberger, M.D., Fel. ’89, is inspired by the his fellow alumnus, the late Stuart Farber, M.D. ’74. “Stuart Farber taught me a lot about the principles of palliative care,” says Linenberger. “The No. 1 thing Stu taught me is: when you meet a patient, look them in the eye, and have them tell you their story. You’ll hear a narrative critical to your role in meeting their needs.”
Photo: David Wentworth Photography

Enter the Art of Medicine — a day-long retreat offered as part of the Hematology-Oncology Fellowship Program and co-chaired by Michael Linenberger, M.D., Fel. ’89, the program director for the adult hematology/oncology fellowship program and medical director of apheresis and cellular therapy at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Kathleen Shannon Dorcy, R.N., Ph.D., the director of clinical nursing research, education and practice with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

What is the art of medicine? “We wanted to challenge participants to expand their talents in communication, perception and compassion. We practiced how to elicit and truly hear patients’ stories,” says Linenberger.

At the retreat, held in August 2015, 21 UW Medicine fellows and three “post-graduates” took a day away from the clinic and the lab to engage in workshops designed to help them learn and practice important skills. Such skills include responding to difficult situations with empathy, delivering bad news with compassion, dealing skillfully with patients’ spiritual needs, and noticing their own signs of fatigue and burnout.

“It’s important for doctors and other members of the healing profession to maintain their own well-being,” says Linenberger. “It helps them remain effective as caregivers and to enjoy a full life outside of medicine.”

The event was a hit with attendees. “This wonderful retreat will undoubtedly influence my approach to patients,” says Agne Taraseviciute, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatric hematology-oncology fellow. “It makes me strive to be an even better physician — taking more time to listen to their stories, connect with them and help them during their treatment and beyond.”

The Art of Medicine was made possible through support from the Thomas G. Ewing Memorial Fund, with matching support from the Robert and Phyllis Henigson Research Fund, and additional resources from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Many attendees expressed their gratitude to Kay Ewing, Mr. Ewing’s spouse and a contributor to the course. And all of them appreciated the chance to hone their skills.

These skills are vitally important, notes Shannon Dorcy. “Balancing the art and science of medicine helps us respect our patients’ journeys,” she says. “And it helps inspire us to find new, better ways to relieve the suffering caused by cancer.”

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