An Attending Physician at Lenox Hill Hospital/Northwell Health and Clinical Professor of Neurology at Downstate Medical Center, Dr. Gayatri Devi (’14SPS, Narrative Medicine) primarily works with patients who have concussions, memory disorders, and different types of pain syndromes.
Q: How would you define narrative medicine and how does it relate to your work?
A: Narrative medicine is a way of truly hearing the stories of patients and allowing that to inform your care of patients. For example, I think that, currently, medicine is very fast paced. But yet, we're all really just a library of stories, and our stories determine our illnesses and how we're going to respond to different things. Unless the physician is able to understand that, it's very hard for them, I think, to truly take care of a patient, of the whole person with the condition, rather than just spot cure different parts of symptoms.
Q: Have you always been interested in neurology?
A: I've always loved the brain. The brain to me is the most exciting part of the universe, because it is our universe. It's really what makes us who we are. And so, I've been interested in the neurology and the psychiatry of the brain since I was nine years old and I read Freud's Interpretation of Dreams. I think narrative medicine allowed me to be more articulate about how I think about the brain, and to be able to convey my impressions to a larger audience in a more cogent fashion, and I value that.
Q: Was it hard to balance school with your practice?
A: The faculty in the narrative medicine department were very cognizant of the demands of my time and my practice, and they understood that my practice came first, and what I was trying to improve and expand upon an area of my intellectual life, I didn't want it to really interfere with the thing that I valued the most, which was taking care of my patients. And so, they were extremely accommodating in terms of my electives, my independent study, and even some of my classes.
Q: How has your experience at the School of Professional Studies changed or improved your work?
A: The best evidence is shortly after I graduated about three years ago, and I've just come out with a new book, and it’s a compendium of stories of patients. I just got a letter today from a woman who read my book in California, and she said to me, ‘You know, I've just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and I came across your book.’ And she said, ‘I read these stories, and some of the stories I feel are targeted. It's almost as if you're writing about me.’ And she says, ‘That gives me comfort, and it helps me.’