Scholarly Concentration in Physician as Communicator

Concentration Director

Teresa L. Schraeder, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor
Department of Family Medicine
Alpert Medical School
[email protected]


Physician communication skills are an essential aspect of medical education, from excellent writing and effective public speaking, to improved communication with patients, care teams, and the press. Building bridges between the profession of medicine and the rest of the world, rests on how well physicians communicate.

The Medical Journalism and Physician Communications Scholarly Concentration will offer guidance, support and structure to medical students interested in all aspects of medical writing and communications.

First, medical journalism is at the forefront of this concentration. Medical narrative non-fiction in the form of popular books, articles and podcasts, currently permeates our world. Today, medical journalists often translate, illuminate and expose the complexity and mystery of medicine. This concentration would be suitable for students who would like to learn not only how to read and critique the work of medical journalists but how to improve their own writing and journalistic skills from the academic press to popular articles for the public.

Medical students interested in the power of the word – in all forms of media would be encouraged to sign up for this concentration.  The written, spoken, electronically broadcast or visually displayed forms of expression regarding medical information will all be part of the curricula. The students will focus on their particular area of interest in their particular medium and then meet regularly with other students, complete research and writing projects, provide updates to their mentor, and meet all of the ongoing requirements throughout the four years of medical school.

The Physician as Communicator Scholarly Concentration, not only provides a foundation of helpful information and support but will also give the student a greater understanding of the world of medical journalism and the broader world of physician communications – from developing a critical eye and ear regarding medical writing and language to navigating the editing and submission, editing and publishing processes as a professional physician writer or a physician communicator. It will also offer support and guidance for the student to complete a unique writing project of their own design.

The Physician as Communicator Concentration can easily overlap or help facilitate and encompass ideas and topics from virtually any of the other  scholarly concentrations. Any student who wants to focus on one of the other concentrations specifically could also benefit from involvement in Physician as Communicator to help collect, write and present their work.  We welcome all students and look forward to hearing about their ideas.


The student who selects this concentration will be responsible for:

1.        Elective Course: Attendance and participation in the current medical student writing elective course. This elective meets 8 – 10 times (two-hour sessions) during the fall or spring semester. This ongoing elective provides a core support group and excellent resource for any medical student interested in writing. Visiting speakers as well as information about current articles, author events/readings, writing contests, publication/submission requests, and lectures may be offered. The regular weekly sessions provide an opportunity for students to meet with each other, present their work and receive feedback, and assistance in having their work edited and submitted for publication.  The medical students who participate in this concentration will also provide administrative help with the course including planning events of interest to the writing class.

2.       Scholarly Project: This scholarly concentration will require completion of a major communications project such as an in-depth article (3,000 words plus), a book (including initial outline and all or most chapters completed), or documentary (edited and ready for submission or broadcast) or series of written articles on a particular subject of interest to the student.

3.       Regular Updates: The student will be required to have regular contact with their mentor and concentration director. The mentor along with the concentration director, will oversee the scholarly project and provide regular updates and feedback.

4.       Reading List: Completion of selected articles and books from a master reading list that will include medical literature, medical journalism, medical narrative, medical mystery, medical nonfiction and grammar and will be distributed to the students and updated regularly.

5.       Presentations: The student will be responsible for presenting their final work in front of the medical students writing elective course and possibly a larger audience including other medical students and faculty.


The student applying to the Physician as Communicator Scholarly Concentration should have a focused idea for a particular writing or communications project (book, series of articles, documentary, website, podcasts, etc.) outlined that will act as the basis for a summer experience, as well as for the final scholarly product.  The student must outline this project in detail and complete the Scholarly Concentration application.

During the summer between Year I and Year II, the student will spend 8-10 weeks working on their communications project.  The student’s work might include the completion of certain written products (the quantity of which to be agreed upon by the student and faculty mentor ahead of time), the collection of information including literature searches, readings, interviews, and research. This work will form the basis of the student’s final scholarly project. If the student has secured an internship/externship in the medical communications field for the summer between Year I and Year II, the student will still be responsible for collecting and researching the bulk of information needed for their final scholarly writing project. The student will meet with the concentration leader and/or their mentor before the summer and make a commitment to present their research and data in a poster presentation.

Major activities for students in Years II –IV involve staying in regular contact with the concentration director, participating in the Physician as Communicator elective, conducting any further research or interviews necessary, and completing the final scholarly product.

Concentration Related Electives

BIOL 6539: Exploring the World of Medical Journalism

Learning Objectives

·         To find one’s voice and ultimately improve one’s ability to write and critique others' writing.

·         To become familiar with all genres of “medical writing” both past and present and analyze the various styles, mediums, and function of the profession. 

·         To improve one’s ability to think like a writer, learn concrete ways to research a topic and direct one's writing for the desired audience.

·         To master the ability to select a project and then provide an outline, conduct interviews, literature reviews, and to bring the project to fruition – all the while learning more about the entire process of writing for publication from query to submission.

·         To improve one’s ability to communicate, to speak and give presentations on medical subjects before others and to listen critically to others' presentations.

·         To provide the student with a forum to capture and express in words or pictures the experiences and lessons during an extraordinary time of medical training – the four years of medical school education.

Project Examples

The student’s scholarly project could include a first-person narrative of clinical work or research topic in book form; an in-depth exploration of a particular area of interest in public health; an article or series of articles on a topic in the biological sciences or bioethics; an audio or video documentary on a controversial topic in medicine; or an autobiographical sketch of an individual in medical history --- as well as any other topic the student, mentor, director and scholarly concentration committee determine acceptable to meet the requirements for a scholarly concentration project in medical writing or communications.


Project Title


Alissa Cooper

Bridging the gap: Facilitating communication between physicians and patients with chronic pelvic pain

Sarah Fox, MD

Nathaniel Nelson

Healing after resettlement: the refugee experience in Providence

Elizabeth Toll, MD

Lauren Park

Creating and testing tablet-based patient education programs

Joseph Diaz, MD

Carmen Kilpatrick

Breastfeeding Education for Medical Students

Courtney Bilodeau

Anna Delamerced

The stories of scars: Exploring narratives of hurt and healing

Kaichu Lee, MD; Jay Baruch, MD

Vishal Khetpal

Money and medicine: confronting and understanding resource allocation practices in American Healthcare

Dr. Ira B. Wilson; Dr. Teresa L. Schraeder

Cynthia Peng

Effect of music intervention as a non-pharmacological tool in improving quality of life of palliative care patients

Kate Lally, MD, FACP

Joseph Dizoglio

A study of women physicians writing science fiction, 1950-Present

Edward Stopa, MD