About Your Teachers

Medicine and the Muse Spring Writing Retreat for Medical Students is an opportunity for you to hang out with some of the top science and medicine communicators working today. Laurel Braitman, Writer-in-Residence at Stanford's Medicine and the Muse Program leads the workshop, alongside guest instructors invited for their know-how and experience as well as their generosity, kindness and interest in supporting student work. Past guests have included Rebecca Skloot, author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Jordan Bass, executive editor of McSweeney's Publishing; Annie Brown, reporter and producer for The New York Times "Daily" podcast; Mimi Lok, Executive Director and Executive Editor of Voice of Witness (VOW), a nonprofit she cofounded with author Dave Eggers and Dr. Lola Vollen that advances human rights by amplifying the voices of people impacted by injustice; Haley Howle, senior producer for Pop Up Magazine, a live magazine the New York Times has called "a sensation;" Glenn Kramon, longtime editor at the New York Times where reporters he supervised won 10 Pulitzer Prizes, and were finalists for the Pulitzer 25 times; and many, many more. She will announce the instructors one at a time. So check back as we get closer to the workshop!



Workshop co-leader & Instructor

Laurel Braitman PhD is a New York Times bestselling author, the Writer-in-Residence at Medicine & the Muse at the Stanford School of Medicine, and a Contributing Writer for Pop Up Magazine.  Her writing has appeared The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Wired and other publications and she regularly speaks to packed audiences around the world about issues relating science, medicine and health. She received her PhD in History, Anthropology and Science, Technology & Society from MIT and is a Senior TED Fellow. Her last book, Animal Madness (Simon & Schuster 2015) was a NYT bestseller, a science pick of the year everywhere from Amazon to Science Friday and has been translated into seven languages. Her work has been featured on the BBC, NPR, Good Morning America, and Al Jazeera. She's taught popular interdisciplinary courses at Harvard, MIT Smith College and elsewhere and is passionate about collaborating with musicians, physicians, filmmakers, artists and scientists. Laurel's next book (Simon & Schuster, forthcoming) is about medicine, family, death and teenage awkwardness.

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Want to learn the difference between a story and just an interesting topic? How about how to report a story that takes you around the world or simply deeper into your own neighborhood? What IS creative nonfiction after all and how do we do it?

Bonnie Tsui is a longtime contributor to The New York Times and the author of American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. Her work has appeared in California SundayThe Atlantic, TheNewYorker.com, Outside, Travel + Leisure, Smithsonian, Wired, Food & Wine, O the Oprah Magazine, Salon, Sunset, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Magazine, Nautilus, and National Geographic Adventure. She is writing a book about swimming, to be published by Algonquin Books. 

She is also an incredible live performer, a seriously talented surfer, and a hell of a lot of fun to be around. Check out her website to see the vast range of topics she’s covered. She's very excited to come meet all of you and hear your stories.

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What are your most closely guarded stories? What would help you tell them? And how do you tell them WELL? What if you want to work with others--artists, musicians, filmmakers? What if you want to start something entirely new and different the world has not yet seen?

Alex Tieghi-Walker is a writer, editor, and small-scale publisher based in Berkeley, California. By day, he works with Pop-Up Magazine and the California Sunday Magazine; by night, he edits The Anonymous Sex Journal, a cheeky printed compendium of secretly-submitted anecdotes. He is a former Senior Editor at Vice Media, and prior to that Commissioning Editor at NOWNESS, where he developed  film content and storytelling partnerships with arts and culture organizations. He also writes about sustainability, community and urbanism for publications including Fantastic ManApartamentoAnOtherDazedThe Plant JournalThe Garden EditRiposte, and The Gourmand.

Alex is not only cool, he's charming, generous and has lived a life of great adventure. Ask him about interior design, making a home in a new country and the gorgeous barn he lives in. 


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Are you a fan of young adult fiction? Have you ever dreamt of writing it yourself? Want to know some tips and tricks to get yourself putting words on the page--especially words that you like and feel good about? What are the principles of incredible storytelling and how you can learn them?

Erica Lorraine Scheidt’s young adult novel, Uses for Boys (St. Martin's Press), was a 2014 PEN Center Literary Award finalist, a Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and named a Best First Book for Youth by the American Library Association's Booklist. A longtime advocate for teen writers, Erica directs the teen writers’ workshops at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive. Erica was a 2012 Artist in Residence at Headlands Center for the Arts and has received literary arts grants from the Creative Work Fund and Center for Cultural Innovation. She currently teaches high school in Richmond, and lives in Berkeley with her wife, stepdaughter, and their dogs.

Erica is a gifted teacher, kind of a teenager herself, and has so so much to tell you about being creative. We are so lucky to have her.

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What do physicians (and physicians in training) need to know in order to speak to the media? How can you keep your words from being taken out of context? Also, what are major news outlets looking for in terms of stories and how do you balance medical school with your possible dreams of communicating with the public?

Julie Barzilay, MS-2, is a medical student at Stanford with a passion for health communication and the humanities. She studied History of Science and English at Harvard, and afterwards pursued a masters in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Cambridge, where she also took up rowing. She was the science editor of The Harvard Crimson, and before starting med school she worked as a production associate in the ABC News Medical Unit in New York, where she helped cover breaking news related to Zika virus, gun violence as a public health issue, and the consequences of sleep deprivation, among other stories. Julie has enjoyed delving into bioethics research at Stanford, as well as TAing courses like a new History of Medicine class she launched in the fall with Laurel! She can't wait to talk to you about health communication, newsworthiness, and storytelling.

Julie hardly needs an introduction since so many of you know her already. What you might not know: she has inspired a cartoon character on network television, she is a font of wisdom when it comes to producing medical stories, and she has plenty to teach you about being your best self when you're being asked tough questions.