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Wednesday's Story Slam will explore random acts of kindness.
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Are random acts of kindness part of your story?

Published on Monday, April 13, 2020

By: Ruth Cummins

For five minutes, get up in front of a crowd and tell a story along a given theme.

No memorized speech. No notes.  No electronic crutches. 

And, it’s not just any story. It’s your true story on a topic that will unite everyone in the room.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s next Story Slam at noon Wednesday - via WebEx so that social distancing students and employees can take part – has a timely theme in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. And it’s one that was decided months ago.

Sondra Redmont

“Random acts of kindness,” the topic to be taken up by speakers including pediatric neurologist Dr. Brad Ingram, is just what’s needed, said Sondra Redmont, administrator of UMMC’s Office of Well-being.

As Medical Center employees and students began social distancing last month, “everybody was canceling everything on campus, and the knee-jerk was, ‘Oh, well, cancel it,’” Redmont said. “But, we can do this, and we need this right now.

“We need to remember who we are, and that telling stories is important. At a time like this, we need storytelling and random acts of kindness more than ever.”

Dr. Kathryn Schneider, associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Dr. Dick Wardrop, professor in the Department of Medicine, and Redmont decided to move forward with the Department of Pediatrics Grand Rounds Story Slam event, the latest installment in the Story Slam series. 

They agreed that despite everything that was going on, “stories can reconnect us in this time of stress and separation,” Redmont said.

Richard Wardrop

For years, there’s been a written and oral tradition of storytelling in medicine, said Wardrop, who also serves as his department’s vice chair for education and faculty development. “Physicians and others have been telling and writing about their professional experience for millennia,” he said. “Only recently have we had the bandwidth to capture this in a novel medium – live or digital reproduction.”

UMMC’s Story Slam format is adapted from the American College of Physicians, said Wardrop, who serves as chair of ACP’s Council of Early Career Physicians and is a member of the ACP Board of Regents. He has spoken throughout the country on issues around burnout and culture, and he’s dedicated to adding to the culture of well-being through storytelling.

The Dec. 10 Grand Rounds for the Department of Medicine was a Story Slam in coordination with Wardrop, the departments of Surgery and Pediatrics and the Office of Well-being leadership. The theme was “putting humanity back into medicine,” with participants telling stories about how patients touched their lives.

“My motivation in this from the start was to add to and improve the culture here and to bring something new and helpful to my new role and community,” Wardrop said.

“Storytelling events are a great way to do this,” he said. Wardrop, the Office of Well-being, Children’s of Mississippi, and the departments of Medicine, Surgery and Family Medicine are collaborators for Wednesday’s event. 

Six people nominated by their peers will tell their stories, Redmont said. “I nominated Brad Ingram,” she said. “He’s a great storyteller.”

Random acts of kindness have cropped up on campus in recent weeks of the pandemic. Just one example: neighborhood organizations such as the Fondren Renaissance Foundation collected money from residents who live near the Medical Center and helped supply meals for front-line caregivers.

People nationwide were touched last week by a huge random act of kindness by actor/director Tyler Perry. The comic actor of “Madea” fame on April 8 paid for groceries at 29 Winn-Dixie stores during shopping hours as a surprise for seniors and at-risk individuals. 

“This is so important to the mental health of our people,” Redmont said of Wednesday’s event. “Stories bring us together and provide a much-needed connection during this time of uncertainty.  It reminds us of the goodness in the world.

“It’s not COVID-19. It’s a mom, a sister, a grandparent, a wife, and here’s the story around it. We are all together this way.”

Tune in Wednesday by using meeting number (access code) 803 203 775. For audio only, join by phone from a mobile device by calling 1-415-655-0001.

For the link to the WebEx version, contact Monica Watkins at mwatkins2@umc.edu or 601-815-1264 or Louise Dove at ldove@umc.edu or 601-984-5214.

And, make plans for attending the next Story Slam event – the date in September will be announced later - as part of the Department of Medicine Grand Rounds in conjunction with Pediatrics and the Office of Well-being.

“There will be more storytelling to come,” Redmont said. “We are all together in this way.”