Creativity & Humanism

Writing as a Craft in the Time of COVID 

Presented in conjunction with McMaster University, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, Waterloo Regional Campus

📅 Thursday, March 18th, 2021

💻 Delivered Virtually

About this Session

In an editorial in the BMJ, Susan Michie and Robert West argue compellingly that the social sciences and humanities are “critical interventions” that should be “top not bottom of the covid-19 research agenda.” The research and policy orientation to the pandemic has been overwhelmingly biomedical in orientation, to the detriment of containment and suffering. This COVID-inflected workshop provides craft-based techniques - the equivalent of the biomedical “skills-based” and “competency” models - to health practitioners in order to create beautiful written works that, in the creation, are acts of care for the creator. Through a series of guided prompts that teach specific techniques, and through the sharing of work in a safe space, the participants become better writers, self-carers, and also better physicians through the processing of their own experience.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this virtual event, participants will be able to:



Dr. Shane Neilson is a poet, physician, literary critic, and PhD graduate of the English and Cultural Studies Department at McMaster University where he researches the representations of pain as a Vanier Scholar. Shane’s clinical practice, writing practice, and scholarly practice concern issues around dis/ability, Maritimity, and Canadian literature. Shane has published several books, the most recent of which is Dysphoria from PQL (2017). He works at Student Health Services at the University of Guelph and is an adjunct professor of family medicine at McMaster.

Dr. Damian Tarnopolsky studied literature at the University of Toronto and Oxford University and Writing with Mavis Gallant at the Humber School for Writers. His widely praised first book, Lanzmann and Other Stories, was nominated for the ReLit Award for short fiction. His work has also been shortlisted for the Journey Prize and the CBC Literary Award. He has taught writing, communications and literature at the University of Toronto, Humber College, the Junction Writes workshop, and the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, and was the 2014 and 2016-18 Barbara Moon/Ars Medica Editorial Fellow at Massey College. He now teaches creative and reflective writing to health practitioners at the Centre for Faculty Development at St. Michael’s Hospital, and leads A Rooster for Asclepius, a health-related writing group.

His articles and reviews appear regularly 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.


Sean Park, PhD (@profseanpark) is an assistant professor in the Division of Education & Innovation (DEI) within the Department of Medicine.  He has a passion for creative, alive, and engaged teaching and learning.  He facilitates courses in design thinking, strategic foresight, experiential futures with the M.G. DeGroote Health Leadership Academy and iBioMed program.  

Dr. X. Catherine Tong (@XC_TongMD) is an Assistant Clinical Professor affiliated with the Dept of Family Medicine at McMaster University.  She currently practices emergency medicine at the Grand River and St. Mary’s General Hospitals in Kitchener-Waterloo, and family medicine at the Grand Valley Institute for Women, a federal correctional facility in Kitchener.  She is the faculty development lead at Waterloo Regional Campus. Her education research focuses on engaging community-based faculty members in the Distributive Medical Education context through curating and delivering faculty development content that is valuable and accessible to busy clinicians.