MEDI 4000: Non-Fiction Writing Practicum

Course Instructors

Rachel Pearson, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Ruth Berggren, MD, MACP, Director, Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics
Kristy Kosub, MD, Professor, Director of Student Education Programs

Course Description

This is an intensive longitudinal writing workshop designed to equip motivated students with the basic skills necessary to serve as effective advocates-in-writing for patients, the profession of medicine, and population health.

Each month, students read two examples of non-fiction writing in a particular form and create their own 300- to 1800-word piece. Then in class, we will analyze the assigned readings, discuss the strengths and limitations of the form we studied, and break down techniques that the writer used to achieve their effects.

Students will share their pieces with the instructor only in the first three sessions and learn editing skills (micro-editing, macro-editing, and compassionate reading). Then starting the fourth session, students will respond to each others’ work and re-submit at least one piece after a round of edits. We will focus on technical skills for writers seeking to publish for the final class, including protecting patient privacy and confidentiality in non-fiction writing, approaching editors, and choosing an appropriate venue for a piece.

Although we will be centered on writing for advocacy, these techniques can also serve other goals/needs such as reflection, healing, identity-formation, and community-building. Additionally, the empathic techniques of close reading, careful listening, and generously responding to another person’s story will also serve students who seek to hone their skills as compassionate healers.

Course Objectives

Students will learn how to:

  • Implement specific writing skills to serve as effective patient advocates through writing, including micro-editing, macro-editing, and analysis of arguments.
  • Read with curiosity and generosity and hone techniques of compassionate reading and empathic communication in reading and to respond to each others’ work.
  • Recognize and create various forms of non-fiction writing, including the op-ed, the researched essay, the character study or profile, the personal essay, and others.
  • Link form and function, specifically recognizing the advantages and limitations of each form and choosing the form most suited to achieving the rhetorical or advocacy-based goal envisioned.

Course Requirements

  • Monthly workshops
  • Original writing submissions (5+) & revisions (1+)

If you are interested in this course, please contact