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Narrative Medicine Alum Gayatri Devi Redefines Alzheimer’s

A new book by Master of Science in Narrative Medicine alum Gayatri Devi, M.D. radically rewrites the story of Alzheimer’s disease by defining it as an individual spectrum disorder. Recently she sat down to discuss the book onstage at Columbia University with her mentor, iconic author and activist Gloria Steinem. The conversation focused on Dr. Devi’s research and the far-reaching implications of the book, The Spectrum of Hope: An Optimistic and New Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.

“What I’d been taught is that Alzheimer’s is just one disease,” Dr. Devi said. Doctors would “make a diagnosis and soon [patients] would be in a nursing home. What I found was something different: patients with Alzheimer’s who were stable, stayed stable forever. I found patients who were responding to treatment, who were getting better with treatment.”

The author used her training from the Narrative Medicine program to develop her revolutionary view of the disease. “This is where being in the Narrative Medicine program really helped: to be able to listen to patients without a preconceived notion of what illness was…I mean, what’s more individual than your brain?”

“I think we’re getting rid of another scarlet letter—the letter A” that has stigmatized people with the disease, Steinem responded. “It gives me faith that those of us who are not physicians can understand Alzheimer’s. It is a narrative; it is a story.”