Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

The Power of Stories


A recent grand rounds by Dr. Kimberly Manning illuminated how stories give meaning to why we do what we do.

We felt lucky to attend Dr. Kimberly Manning’s Myron L. Weisfeldt, MD Distinguished Visiting Professorship in Diversity grand rounds last week. The talk was terrific, and we jotted down some notes, including a few related to patient care.  


When Dr. Michelle Ogunwole introduced the speaker, she made it incredibly clear that Dr. Manning is beloved by everyone. While part of this may be due to her upbeat personality, it became obvious that this is primarily because she is a giver. It sounds like she’s always considering how to genuinely help, support, mentor, and care for everyone she contacts. On a side note, this reminded me of Adam Grant’s book “Give and Take.” Grant talks about how givers are happier people than takers.


In her talk, Dr. Manning explained and showed us how the recounting of stories can have tremendous influence by letting others see what is going on. This can effectuate change. For example, she told a story of setting up a table in her hospital’s lobby during the pandemic called the “No Judgment Zone.” At that table, healthcare professionals listened to the concerns and fears of patients about getting COVID vaccination. This empathic listening and connecting with others ultimately translated into many people reconsidering their positions. She urged us all to be story tellers and shape shifters. Stories give meaning to why we do what we do, and narratives can create urgency. #whatsmywhy 


Dr. Manning reminded us that every person’s story began long before birth. The place, home, and family that we’re born into may afford us advantages and disadvantages. Clinicians who are committed to getting to know their patients as people and fully learning their stories will be most able to serve them. 


She also urged us to have our values drive our efforts. To understand our personal mission, she asked us to consider, “What breaks your heart?” Dr. Manning recommended that we tackle these issues to help to make healthcare and the world better for all. 


Finally, she talked about “loose connections” with people. Dr. Manning explained that even through “loose connections” with those we encounter in passing, we can have positive influence. These relationships can significantly impact both the lives of others as well as our own.  


Bringing our best selves and full presence to every encounter or conversation can open doors and transform lives. Listen to stories, share stories, and create new stories. 





This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.