Physicians are translators who spend their days interpreting the sounds, shapes, and textures of the human body. Little wonder, then, that so many of us turn to words—to stories—to explain and understand our profession.
The stories patients tell us are our daily fare. Almost without realizing it, we use these stories as tools to guide us as we make decisions to order a test, recommend a specialist, or prescribe a therapy. Outside of the clinic, we continue to rely on stories to bear witness to what we have encountered: quantitative stories in journals, qualitative stories during rounds and with colleagues, confessional stories to ourselves.
This issue of Harvard Medicine investigates body language, telling the stories of medicine and medical research. Cells, for example, are given voice by scientists who’ve spent years listening to and translating their chemical messages, while the science behind baby babble, perhaps our earliest efforts to tell stories, takes shape through birdsong. Listening in on clinic conversations, we explore the nuance and metaphor of regionalisms while separately reflecting on the healing power that words can have for physician, patient, and student.
Finally, we turn to our alumni for stories that present the poignancy and privilege of our profession. We celebrate those stories in “Body Language,” an essay of story and art.
I hope this issue of Harvard Medicine speaks to you.
Image: John Soares