Harnessing The Healing Power of Stories
Annie Brewster, MD
Health Story Collaborative Founder and Executive Director,
Co-Director of Healing Story Sessions
Annie Brewster is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and a practicing Internist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. She is also a patient, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2001 (see “Our Story”).
Like many doctors, she would say that what drew her to medicine is her love for human connection. Her experiences with the medical profession, however, both as a practitioner and as a patient, have convinced her that today’s medical system, focused more on efficiency and scientific mastery than on relationships, often overlooks what is most important: the stories of people’s lives. The result is many unhappy patients and many dissatisfied doctors.
In 2010, motivated by her belief in the power of stories to improve health, Annie started recording patient narratives. Her finished audio stories have appeared on WBUR’s Commonhealth Blog, as a part of the “Listening to Patients” series. In doing this work, Annie has seen first hand how the process of storytelling is itself therapeutic, both for the storytellers and the listeners. Research supports this claim. Health Story Collaborative grew out of this work. She is committed to keeping the patient voice alive in health care, and to harnessing the healing power of stories.
Her work has been published on the WBUR Commonhealth Blog, NPR.ORG, the New York Times Well Blog, and in the Boston Globe and MS Focus magazine. She has been featured in Harvard Medicine magazine, and on the cable television program About Health with Jeanne Blake. She presented at TEDx Fenway 2014.
Jonathan Adler, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer,
Co-Director of Healing Story Sessions
Jonathan Adler is a clinical psychologist and a professor at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts. He is also an Associate Editor of the Journal of Personality. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical and Personality Psychology from Northwestern University.
Jon’s research focuses on the relationships between identity development in adulthood and mental health. Specifically, he’s interested in the way we make sense of the challenging experiences in our lives and the way that meaning-making impacts our sense of self and our psychological well-being. In this work, Jon uses personal narratives as a vehicle for studying meaning-making and identity development, typically using a mixed-methods approach. He has special interest in the experience of illness and healing as an example of these processes.
Jon’s research has been covered by the New York Times, National Public Radio, Scientific American, Huffington Post, and Elle Magazine, among other media outlets. At the Health Story Collaborative, Jon works to ground our programs in the scientific research on narrative and mental health and works with Annie to develop and run the Healing Story Sessions program.
Web and Social Media Manager
Alice Miller has a Bachelor's Degree in Marketing Communications from Emerson College and is currently working towards a M.A. in Health Communications at Emerson College in collaboration with Tufts School of Medicine. She is currently working on a thesis project with Massachusetts General Hospital's Diabetes Self Management Education and Resource Center developing podcast episodes designed to help patient's manage their diabetes one day at a time.
Alice’s passion is Narrative Medicine and patient advocacy. She wants to empower patients by providing platforms to share their stories. Alice believes that sharing one’s health narrative benefits others but also promotes healing, self-realization and empowerment in the narrator as well.
She has previously worked as a Marketing Communications Consultant for health-based start-ups. In the context of marketing in the health world, Alice considers the patient perspective first and foremost. When traditionally marketing a product, her approaches are based in current consumer trends and feedback.
Annie received a Master of Science in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University in 2014. She previously studied the healing power of stories as an undergraduate at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, where she designed her own major entitled "Stories of Self: Realization, Empowerment and Wellbeing."
Annie is a Recovery Coach with Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists, supporting individuals recovering from eating disorders. She teaches narrative medicine to OB-GYN residents at Bellevue Hospital and leads narrative practice workshops for laypeople. As a yoga teacher and co-founder of NYC-based wellness community Pause Breathe and Connect, Annie guides individuals to explore the interweaving of stories, spirituality, and somatic experience.