At the Lab for Narrative Medicine and Health Innovation, we believe that stories have the power to heal and shift the way we think, act and connect with others in our society.

“For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story… And in stories, endings matter.”

- Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Storytelling is a fundamental part of who we are as humans, and we share our stories to make sense of our experiences. Through storytelling we help contextualize our daily lives for listeners, we develop emotional connections with those bearing witness, and we promote an understanding by allowing the listener to see themselves in the story. In this way, we believe that stories have the capacity to shape humanity by increasing empathy and compassion.

The primary goal of the Lab for Narrative Medicine and Health Innovation is to help others develop the skills and confidence to craft and share the stories they want to tell. We study a variety of technologically mediated narrative approaches and how they help individuals make sense of and find meaning in their experiences. Our work connects new forms of technology and the ancient art of storytelling with health issues and social complexities, including serious illness, chronic pain, trauma and death.

Dr. Abigail Rolbiecki – Lab Director and Lead Story Facilitator

Dr. Abigail Rolbiecki is a PhD social work researcher and assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Missouri. Dr. Rolbiecki’s program of work is centered on this idea that death and grief are universally experienced, and the process of dying, and the support family caregivers provide throughout the disease trajectory, can be both challenging and meaningful. Her community-based approach to intervention and awareness invites individuals, families, practitioners and communities to make meaning of the shared experience of death and dying. Dr. Rolbiecki is a clinically trained social worker who tests interventions designed to help foster meaning-making among those who are intimately involved in the dying process. Her educational background in public health has emphasized the need for a social ecology approach to death and dying, as it is one of the few experiences that impacts every aspect of society. Her work has been published in the fields of palliative and end-of-life care, primary care, social work and public health.

In addition to our work in narrative medicine, we study a variety of innovative health approaches that bridge together technology, neuroscience, nature-based healing and mindfulness. Our work studying the impact of an intervention that utilizes neurofeedback delivered through virtual reality as an approach to managing symptoms associated with serious illness is not only innovative but has potential to be highly translatable in medicine.

Current Publications

  • Parker-Oliver, D., Rolbiecki, A.J., Washington, K., Kruse, R.L., Popejoy, L., Smith, J., Demiris, G.
    (2021).  A pilot study of an intervention to increase family member involvement in nursing home care plan meetings.
    Journal of Applied Gerontology. doi: 10.1177/0733464820946927
  • Teti, M., Bauerband, L., Rolbiecki, A.J., Young. C.
    (2020). Physical activity and body image: Intertwined health priorities identified by transmasculine young people in a non-metropolitan area.
    International Journal of Transgenderism. doi: 10.1080/26895269.2020.1719950
  • Teti, M., Morris, K., Bauerband, L., Rolbiecki, A.J., Young, C.
    (2019). An exploration of apparel and well-being among transmasculine young adults.
    Journal of LGBT Youth. doi:10.1080/19361653.2019.1611519
  • Parker-Oliver, D., Tappana, J., Washington, K., Rolbiecki, A.J…Ellington, L.
    (2019). Behind the Doors of Home Hospice Patients: A Secondary Qualitative Analysis of Hospice Nurse Communication with Patients and Families.
    Palliative and Supportive Care. doi:10.1017/S1478951518001098
  • Rolbiecki, A. J., Subramanian, R., Crenshaw, B., Albright D. L., & Perreault, M.
    (2016). A qualitative exploration of resilience among patients living with chronic pain.
    Traumatology, Special Issue on Resilience. doi:10.1037/trm0000095
  • Rolbiecki, A. J., Anderson K., Teti, M., & Albright, D. L.
    (2016). ‘Waiting for the cold to end’: Using Photovoice as a narrative intervention for survivors of sexual assault.
    Traumatology. doi:10.1037/trm0000087
  • Pelts, M.D., Rolbiecki, A.J., & Albright, D.L.
    (2015). Wounded bonds: A review of the social work literature on gay, lesbian, and bisexual military service members and veterans.
    Journal of Social Work, 15(2): 207-220. doi:10.1177/1468017314548120.
  • Pelts, M.D., Rolbiecki, A.J., & Albright, D.L.
    (2014). Implications for services with gay men and lesbians who have served.
    Social Work in Mental Health, 12(5-6): 429-442. doi:10.1080/15332985.2013.854286.
  • Pelts, M.D., Rolbiecki, A.J., & Albright, D.L.
    (2014). An update to “Among the Missing: Lesbian and Gay Content in Social Work Journals”.
    Social Work, 59(2), 121-138.
  • Teti, M., Rolbiecki, A., Zhang, N., Hampton, D., & Binson, D.
    (2014). Photo-stories of stigma among gay-identified men with HIV in small-town America: A qualitative exploration of voice and visual accounts and intervention implications.
    Arts and Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice. doi:10.1080/17533015.2014.971830.
  • Osborne, V.A., Gage, L.A., & Rolbiecki, A. J.
    (2012). Psychosocial effects of trauma on military women serving in the National Guard and Reserves.
    Advances in Social Work, 13(1), 166-184.

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