Category Archives: The Healer’s Life

Mask Removal Friday

I will read a new piece this Friday evening, called

“How to Remove a Mask? Carefully.”

It’s about how I talk to patients about uncertainty. (“Carefully”), and it’s adapted from my MFA thesis about the Puritan cultural roots of American medicine.

The event, called Dual Diagnosis, is organized by the Northwest Narrative Medicine Collaborative, with Profile Theatre.

    • Cost: Free
    • Where: Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St., Upstairs Lobby
    • When: 6:45 pm, Friday, Feb. 15, 2019; I am the last of 5 writers reading short pieces.

Here’s the full event announcement:

Dual Diagnosis Performance — This Weekend!

  • 6:45 p.m. Friday and Saturday, February 15 – 16
  • Artists Repertory Theater, 1515 SW Morrison St

Northwest Narrative Medicine Collaborative is partnering with Profile Theatre to provide a platform for local doctors, patients, and caregivers to tell their stories together. Dual Diagnosis features writers from our Community of Practice workshops, telling their stories of hope, fear, confusion and triumph, in dialogue with Profile Theatre’s mainstage performance (Un)Conditional, a play written and performed by people living with chronic illness. Profile’s In Dialogue series features pre-show performances that delve into the topics of the stage production. We’re excited to bring our artists to share their stories in tandem with a new community of patient, caregivers and artists. 

The readings will feature the following writers:

Friday, February 15th

  • Sally Foster Rudolph, Bird Friends & In Praise Of
  • Rebecca Harrison, Holy Moment Interrupted
  • Lois Leveen, Braincase Hook, Line, and Ticker
  • April Brennan, The Physiology of a Ghost
  • Merilee Karr, How to Remove a Mask? Carefully.

Saturday, February 16th

  • Jennifer Lycette, Finding Grace
  • Leah Walsh, The Illness That No One Sees
  • Paul Laskonis, The Day I Couldn’t
  • Ben Perin, Poems Patients Wrote Me
  • Carol Welicky, A Dance of Saints

Are Women Doctors Better? Data Says Yes

Women doctors ARE better — at saving lives, and at motivating patients to save themselves.

But in medicine, no good deed goes unpunished. Women physicians pay a price. Better work takes more time. Doctors are paid per patient visit, per widget produced, no matter the quality of the care. There’s no ka-ching! in a life saved, or a life empowered.

The (mostly male) powers that be look at women physicians, and see slowpokes who waste their workday chatting with patients, while the speedier men seem to be doing the work. Building relationships? With patients? And their families? What for? Unprofessional!

So women docs become less-respected, second-class, part-timers. Like me.

I know men who are great doctors and great people. But, as with household chores, they get more credit for having any interpersonal skills at all than women do for black-belt level interpersonal diagnostic skills.

Play reading of “The Moment of Death, A Comedy …” at Restoration Row Podcast Wrap Party


We read an excerpt of the opening scene of the play to introduce the characters, and then read a scene. I play NINA, Sheree Wichard plays MAMA and NELLIE MCKEAN, Ashley Turner reads the role of DR. CARISON, and Ingeborg Riedmaier reads STAGE DIRECTIONS.

When Ashley Turner contacted me this spring about featuring my essay “Plant Life” on Restoration Row, I thought my writing career was about over.

“Plant Life” was published ten long years ago.

Since then, I’ve written science journalism: about healthy buildings, and why Portland rats are special. But it’s hard to open doors to editors, as a freelance writer. Let alone finding homes for my creative writing, essays like “Plant Life” and the plays – I was ready to give up.

Creative people live in caves, isolated with our creations. When a fellow explorer like Restoration Row pokes their head in and says, ‘Hey! Hello there! Great work!’ – well, it brought my writing self back to life. So thank you, fellow healers. And thanks for sharing with me actor Sheree Wichard, who has proven to be a hard-working, inspiring muse.