Faculty of Health Sciences alumnus Dr. Patricia Gabriel

Alumni encourage empathy through art

February 27, 2018
Print

By Phoebe Melvin

Having first-hand experience with how short appointment times reduce a physician’s ability to listen to, and empathize with their patients – particularly those with mental illness – SFU alumnus Dr. Patricia Gabriel came up with an entirely new approach to help physicians.

Reading stories about patients can improve a physician’s ability to empathize, but it is often time-consuming. Gabriel came up with an idea for condensing patient stories while still retaining their transformative properties: poems. And she knew just the poet to help her.

Gabriel turned to Rob Taylor, a friend from high school, who began his studies with her at SFU in 2001. Despite never having a class together, the two remained close friends and remember fondly their time at SFU. Through exploring a wide range of interests, both Gabriel and Taylor were able to focus in on what their true passions were, for Taylor it was poetry, and for Gabriel it was health care.

In 2004 Gabriel graduated with a BSC in biology, and went on to medical school to pursue her interest in health care. Having completed her family practice residency, Gabriel decided to return to SFU, this time to complete a Masters in health science. It was while sitting in a lecture about qualitative research methods that Gabriel had the inspired idea that would turn the friends into collaborators.

The Depression Project began in 2011 with focus groups of patients who shared their personal experience of living with depression.The transcripts of these groups were used by Taylor to create poems, which were initially intended to be used as a resource by medical students to enhance their empathy towards people with depression.

“It became clear that the poems could serve to help foster empathy for family and friends of loved ones experiencing depression, for the general public and even for those experiencing depression themselves,” said Gabriel.

This integration of art and science has resulted in a book that has surpassed its original conception to act solely as a tool for enhancing empathy in physicians. The poems produced were so powerful that publishing house Leaf Press encouraged Gabriel and Taylor to publish the entire collection in a book.

The book launch for Oh Not So Great: Poems from the Depression Project was held last month, and the book is now available for purchase.

The book can be purchased at http://www.leafpress.ca/Rob-Taylor/Rob-Taylor.htm If you would like to ask any questions about the project you can email evidence.based.poetry@gmail.com  and for more information about Rob Taylor's work you can visit  http://roblucastaylor.com/

Latest News

  • May 02, 2018
    Ethical dilemmas in science communication: advice from the Dean
    Dean of Health Sciences Tania Bubela shared some excellent advice as a panelist at the Science Writers & Communicators of Canada conference.
  • April 10, 2018
    Alumnus leads research on HIV in youth
    Health sciences alumnus Kalysha Closson has had recent success publishing the research from her Master's degree in three leading HIV and sexual health peer-reviewed journals.
  • March 21, 2018
    Applications closing for once in a degree opportunity
    Health Change Lab Fall 2018 applications close on April 1st! This once-in-a-degree experiential learning program will push you outside of the classroom and outside of your comfort zone to investigate a real social, economic, or environmental challenge that impacts community health. In interdisciplinary teams, you will build a sustainable business model to creatively respond to it and pitch your ideas to community influencers – all in just 13 weeks.