Team Narrative

Charlotte Axelrod

Charlotte Axelrod MSc

Charlotte Axelrod is a senior medical student at the University of Toronto and a lover of art, stories, culture, and crossword puzzles. She graduated with a Master’s in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University in 2019 and has been explaining her degree to politely confused preceptors ever since. She has delivered Narrative Medicine workshops in New York and Toronto. Charlotte also seeks ways to integrate visual art into her medical training, serving as Art Director for The Essentials of Clinical Examination Handbook and creating illustrations for use in clinical guidelines, patient communications, and educational videos. Her work was recently featured on the cover of the University of Toronto Medical Journal. Throughout medical school, she researches and advocates for the greater inclusion of humanities curricula in undergraduate medical education.

Karen Gold

Karen Gold PhD

Karen Gold is a Program Lead and Instructor in the Narrative-Based Medicine Program at Continuing Professional Development in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto.

Her teaching is informed by 25+ years as a clinical social worker and educator as well as her longstanding experience with arts and narrative in professional practice. Early in her career she was drawn to narrative therapy as a clinical modality and to illness memoirs as a teaching tool.

In 2010, Karen was inspired by the emerging narrative medicine movement to return to school to explore narrative in healthcare. Drawing from the fields of narratology (the study of stories), arts-based inquiry, and auto-ethnography, her dissertation examined writing by practitioners and she graduated summa cum laude with a doctorate from Tilburg University in The Netherlands. While working towards her PhD, Karen did advanced narrative medicine training at Columbia University and certified as a writing workshop leader (Amherst method).

For the last ten years Karen has been leading narrative-based medicine sessions for clinicians, educators, students, and patients. This includes: reader’s theatre on clinical communication, reflective writing for clinicians, therapeutic writing for clients, poetry for therapists, and writing and well-being for artists. She has introduced narrative methods into clinical and classroom settings to promote communication and collaboration and to enhance understanding of the experiences of patients, families and clinicians.

As the Inter-professional Education Lead at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, she developed narrative-based programs to promote collaborative learning and person-centered care. She is a long-time contributor to the Health, Arts, & Humanities Program at the University of Toronto and developed the narrative healthcare unit for their inter-professional student certificate.

She has published and presented on health humanities, narrative pedagogy, life writing, and poetic inquiry. Recent publications include a reflective essay on poet Mary Oliver and a chapter on the relational dimensions of narrative medicine in The Sage Handbook of Social Constructionist Practice.

Karen is a visual artist and registered social worker/psychotherapist in freelance practice. She lives in Toronto with her family and muses on narrative at Art of the Story.

Alisha Kaplan

Alisha Kaplan MFA

Alisha Kaplan is a poet and practitioner of narrative medicine. She has an MFA in Poetry from New York University and a BA in English and Creative Writing from Barnard College, and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. Kaplan is a workshop facilitator for the Writers Collective of Canada, has taught creative writing at New York University, and was an editor at Narrative MagazineWashington Square Review, and the PEN America Journal. Honours she has received include the Hippocrates Prize in Poetry and Medicine, a Rona Jaffe Fellowship, and a Lenore Marshall Barnard Poetry Prize. She is also a winner of the W. B. Yeats Society of New York Poetry Competition and the Eden Mills Writers Festival Literary Contest. Kaplan’s writing has appeared in FenceDIAGRAMPRISM InternationalCarouselThe New Quarterly, and elsewhere. Her debut collection of poems, Qorbanot: Offerings, a collaboration with artist Tobi Kahn, was published in 2021 by SUNY Press. She splits her time between downtown Toronto, New York, and Bela Farm in Hillsburgh, Ontario.

Allan Peterkin

Allan Peterkin MD, FCFP, FRCP

Allan Peterkin completed a degree in English and French literature before completing medical school at the University of Manitoba.

He went on to complete residencies in psychiatry and family medicine at McGill, all the while working on his own creative writing projects. As a resident, he published “Staying Human During Residency Training-How To Survive and Thrive After Medical School” (now in its 7th North American edition and 1st UK edition). Dr Peterkin is a full Professor of psychiatry and family medicine at the University of Toronto, where he founded the Program in Health, Arts and Humanities. He has served as the inaugural Humanities Faculty Lead for Undergraduate Medical Education, Post Graduate Medical Education and Continuing Professional Development.

He is a Distinguished Fellow of the Canadian Psychiatric Association and Senior Fellow at Massey College. He was the winner of the US-based Health Humanities Consortium Visionary Award in 2023.

Dr Peterkin was a co-founder of Creating Space-Canada’s annual medical humanities meeting, now in its 12th year, and was instrumental in founding the Canadian Association for Health Humanities. He has always been interested in the interface between medicine and storytelling and co-led a therapeutic writing group for men and women living with HIV for 20 years. A collection of these patients’ narratives was published as “Still Here-a Post-Cocktail Aids Anthology” (Life Rattle Press). This work led to further training in narrative-based medicine in the US and UK and he was a pioneer in bringing narrative practice approaches in healthcare to Canada.

Dr Peterkin has written/edited 15 books on subjects as varied as cultural history, human sexuality, physician health and narrative-based medicine.

His health humanities titles include : “Portfolio to Go-1000 Prompts and Provocations for Clinical Learners”, “Health Humanities in Postgraduate Medical Education” with Dr Anna Skorzewska, and “Keeping Reflection Fresh-a Practical Guide for Clinical Educators”, with Pamela Brett-Maclean PHD.

He is also an author of 5 picture books for children. Recent titles include “The Flyaway Blanket” , “National Geographic Kids’ Dream Journal” and “Peacock and Sketch”.

Dr Peterkin was a co-founder of the award-winning Canadian literary journal Ars Medica and has been a humanities editorial consultant to CMAJ and Medical Humanities (BMJ).

His poetry, journalistic pieces and creative non-fiction have appeared in journals and magazines in the US, Canada and the UK.

He is delighted to be the founder and current Program Director of the CPD Certificate Program in Narrative-based Medicine, which has trained colleagues from all over the world. This program continues to create new opportunities for finding renewal and community by celebrating the stories and narrative practices shared by students, colleagues, patients and educators from multiple clinical and arts-based disciplines.

Damian Tarnopolsky

Damian Tarnopolsky PhD

Damian Tarnopolsky is a Program Lead in the Narrative-Based Medicine Program at Continuing Professional Development in the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto.

His introduction to the field came at Massey College, where as the Barbara Moon/Ars Medica Editorial Fellow he taught creative and reflective writing to medical students and residents. After earning his Narrative Healthcare certificate with the Health, Arts and Humanities program at the University of Toronto, he taught courses in narrative competence at the Centre for Faculty Development at St. Michael’s Hospital, and ran A Rooster for Asclepius, a health-related writing group. He currently teaches in the Narrative-Based Medicine Digital Certificate Program and leads The Mudroom, a creative writing workshop for health practitioners. He is also writer-in-residence with the Health, Arts and Humanities program.

His most recent creative work, The Defence, won the 2019 Voaden Prize, a national playwriting competition, and has been presented as a staged reading by the Kingston WritersFest and in Toronto by Junction Reads. His novel Goya’s Dog, the story of a dyspeptic British painter’s unhappy World War II exile in Toronto, was nominated for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book and the First Novel Award. Lanzmann and Other Stories appeared with Exile Editions and was nominated for the ReLit award. It was praised in the Toronto Star as “at turns surreal, serio-comic, whimsical and erotic,” and by eye weekly for its “authority, Nabokovian play and bawdiness” and “perfect, twisty sentences.” His short fiction has appeared in The Antigonish Review, subTerrain, Audeamus, and elsewhere, and has been twice nominated for the Journey Prize, as well as the CBC Literary Award.

Damian Tarnopolsky studied modern literature at Oxford University and writing at the Humber School for Writers, where he was mentored by Mavis Gallant. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, where he specialized in the later modernist novel and was awarded the President’s Teaching Academy award. His articles and reviews appear in the national press and online in such publications as The Walrus, the Literary Review of Canada, Partisan, and The Globe and Mail, and for a time he was the Managing Editor of the Toronto Review of Books. He is currently the proprietor of Slingsby and Dixon, an editorial communications firm in Toronto, where he lives with his family.

Indu Voruganti

Indu Voruganti MD, MS

Indu Voruganti, MD, MS is a resident physician in Radiation Oncology at University of Toronto, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. She believes that the practice of oncology is fortified by narrative medicine, bearing witness to, and honoring the stories of patients and caregivers. She has a strong interest in the intersection of evidence-based oncology, medical humanities pedagogy, and medical education. She received her undergraduate and medical degrees from Brown University in Providence, RI, USA and her Master of Science degree in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University, New York USA. She previously taught narrative medicine courses for pre-health and medical students, allied health professionals, physicians, patients, and caregivers. At University of Toronto, she has been fortunate to teach a seminar on Narrative, Health and Social Justice in the Health Professions Certificate Program through the Center for Professional Development. She looks forward to contributing further to the growing offerings in Narrative-based Medicine at University of Toronto and beyond.

Jane Zhao

Jane Zhao MSc

Jane Zhao is a lover of comics because when she has no brain or patience for words, she escapes into image. She is a graduate of the Masters in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University and studied neuroscience at McGill University. She currently works as a health services researcher in Toronto, Canada. She is the co-facilitator of the Mixed-Media & Medicine (MMM) group and former co-founder of the Graphic Medicine Reading Workshop through the Health, Arts and Humanities program at the University of Toronto. Talk to her about poetry, Donna Haraway, health policy, and muscle pain.