Earlier this year a professional colleague called a meeting with me. I had been advised he had just learned of my upcoming book, and I knew he had a different philosophical view than me. To complicate things further he was someone who had seniority in the organization I worked for. Someone gave me a head’s up that his goal was for me to understand his belief system. Not just understand, but adopt as my own and fall in line with his ideology.
Before we delved into the meeting I asked him—I implored him to think about what he was going to say and the words he would likely use. I reminded him that those words are the same words used by a shooter who killed three people in my clinic two years earlier. While perhaps not literally the same words, the message that drove the violence and trauma, to me, were one in the same. I wanted him to understand the words were directly associated with actual harm bestowed upon me and others. That words have impact.
The fight over access to abortion on clinic sidewalks and in Congress is but a narrow sliver of its far-reaching impact. As a physician I have tremendous data at my disposal but I know from practice that stories are more powerful than data alone. Like my work in medicine, where a physician’s objective is to treat the whole person, telling my story to convey a message while recognizing that it’s part of a larger system is similarly challenging. My TEDx talk illustrates the real, tangible, and lasting impact of fake news. That we need to increase fact-based discourse, break down artificial barriers of party lines, and dispel the false narrative that there are only two sides of an issue.
My story is much larger than myself. It’s part of a multifaceted system, each facet having its own complex narrative. That’s why I want to use my story to raise questions, not give answers. I want to alter the course of how information is gathered and processed in our social-media driven, sound-bite information era.
For me, the most challenging aspect is to keep focused, stay on message, and not become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the undertaking.
After all, my goal is not merely to tell a story for the sake of it. I want to initiate change.